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Everett man's story of living without heat helps warm hearts and homes

Tim Otness had been living for weeks with a broken furnace. Now, help is on the way for him and others.

EVERETT, Wash. — The holidays came early for Tim Otness, and the only thing he wants this year is a warm home.

"I don't ask for help," he said. "I just don't."

He didn't ask, but someone answered anyway.

KING 5 met Otness two weeks ago when temperatures were dipping into the 30s. His furnace was broken and he couldn't afford to fix it.

The disabled 72-year-old was keeping warm with a tiny space heater, a leather coat and piles of blankets.

When an anonymous viewer saw his story on KING 5, she paid for his furnace to get fixed -- about $700.

"Well, it was actually overwhelming," said Otness, whose mobility is severely limited due to a hip injury. "I didn't even know how to react to it."

After we first told his story about a dozen people and businesses contacted KING 5 hoping to help. 

All those good intentions are now being put to good use.

"People want to help. They just don't know how to," said Cynthia Andrews of Homage Senior Services. "When you're talking about heating people's homes, in some cases it truly is a matter of life and death." 

Homage does minor repairs for low-income seniors in Snohomish County.

Because of rising equipment costs the agency currently has 24 people on their wait list for heat and hot water. More requests are coming in all the time.

Homage has set up a Hearts for Heat fundraising campaign and thanks to Tim telling his story, that list will shrink.

"We see the need and we know how important it is to get people warm because the temps are dropping again, and this winter will probably be even worse," said Andrews.

Wednesday, Otness' furnace was fixed by the folks at Kings Heating and Air Conditioning.

Technician Josh Pollard also presented him with a Safeway gift card for $300.

Tim couldn't help but think back to his decades as a contractor and how he would often help low-income folks for free. He called his good fortune "karma."

"For a long time I didn't think it existed, but you know, it does and it comes when you don't expect it," Otness said.

This Thanksgiving, karma came in the form of a furnace and a warm-hearted stranger known only as "Mary from Olympia."

"I can't really think of anything more to say right now other than thank God. You really made my life better," Otness said.

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