AURORA, Colo. — What started as a simple request for a ride to a job interview, has become much more after an entire Colorado community rallied around a disabled veteran.
Thomas Downing, 28, has been down on his luck lately.
“Physically I am getting there, I mean, I feel like a 90-year-old in a 28-year-old body, but I’m doing what I can because I can’t stop," Downing told KDVR. "It’s something I’ve come to terms with, but I could really use a break.”
Downing served as a military police officer from 2012-2016 in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I responded to suicides, fights, domestic violence primarily after my first year," he said. "I had beer bottles thrown at me, I’ve been stabbed, hit by a car twice. So I’ve got messed-up shoulders, knees, legs, I think I have nerve damage and thyroid issues, I’m getting checked out with VA.”
He takes several medications and admits he was charged with driving under the influence in August. His car was impounded, which has made it difficult to get around.
He recently lost his job and has been applying for new jobs.
“I finally got an interview," he said. "I was like ‘Hey they called me, I really needed to get there.' I just needed help.”
Downing put a simple request on the Nextdoor app, asking for a ride to his job interview.
His post touched Kira Baldwin's heart, whose own brother struggled with similar issues after getting out of the Marines a few years ago.
“It seemed like such a simple request and I thought ‘I can do that,'” she said.
Dozens of others offered to help as well.
“I saw so many people in our community reaching out, I thought if people want to help, let's let them help," she said. "I asked Thomas, ‘What else you need that we can help you with?’ He humbly said, ‘My pantry is kind of bare.’”
People started donating clothes and gift cards and offering future rides to Thomas.
“I just wanted a ride to an interview, now there's like 45 people that are like, 'what do you need, is there anything I can do?'" he said. "I’m still trying to figure that question for myself.”
“I told him 'I'm in it with you,'" Baldwin said. "I didn't know him before Monday, but I consider him a friend now and I told him you're stuck with me. We're going to figure it out.”
Thomas was offered the job and should start in a couple of weeks. His next step is to find reliable transportation and long-term housing. He is also looking for organizations that help disabled veterans.