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FEATURE: Car Wash Worker a Bright Light on Richmond Rd

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It’s a job most people wouldn’t want, especially with soaring summer temperatures: holding up an advertisement at a busy intersection. But for one employee of a Lexington car wash, being the “sign guy” is doing more than just drumming up business.

Drive down Richmond Road near the intersection of New Circle Road in Lexington most afternoons, and you’re likely to see a slight man wearing khakis, a long-sleeve t-shirt, and an orange sandwich board advertising for Mr. Sparkle Car Wash.

He doesn’t wear headphones. And he’s always moving, pointing and waving to drivers – no matter which direction traffic is going. You almost feel guilty if you don’t wave back.

“Usually when I hire somebody, one of the first things I do is put them out with the sign,” says Dewayne Boyd, manager of Mr. Sparkle. “It kind of let me knows how bad they really want the job. And he didn’t want to stop doing it. Darold’s just… he’s just awesome.”

Try to Reach Everybody

Darold is a 56-year-old Louisiana native who doesn’t mind the heat. For the past three months he’s become a memorable sight for drivers with his bright smile and seemingly unstoppable energy.  

“I try to reach everybody. I don’t like to miss none of them. Because if I miss someone, they seem like they get upset with me.”

Darold works every day except Tuesday, and he comes in a little later on Sunday after church services at 7th Street Baptist. Darold says it’s his faith in God that motivates him to be so outgoing to strangers driving by.

“Like I’m doing it for Him, trying to please Him. That’s my inspiration.”

Staying Humble

Darold’s life wasn’t always so positive, which is why he asked that we not use his last name. He once worked in the hotel industry, but there was a time when Darold was on the wrong side of the law. Not long ago he was sleeping in a shelter.

“You had to be there by 6:30 to get in line. They didn’t open the doors until 7, and then if you’re not in line you don’t get a good bed, so you had to sleep on the floor, make a pallet on the floor. But I survived.”

A friend suggested that Darold apply for a job at Mr. Sparkle. The owner of the car wash wasn’t afraid to give Darold a second chance.

“He’s one of those who surprised us. He’s got a record. Many of us do here. We gave him a second chance, and you see what he’s doing with it,” says Boyd.

Darold is now out of the shelter and says he starts each by reading a chapter from the book of Proverbs in the Bible.

“Things you go through make you stronger. Keeps you humble too!” he says.

Beyond the Car Wash

The car wash says it’s seeing new customers because of their animated sign guy. But even if drivers don’t end up going to Mr. Sparkle, Darold has made a difference. A woman recently wrote a letter to the editor about him that was published in the Lexington Herald-Leader. It said:

“Although I don't even know this man's name, he deserves recognition for the impact he has made in my life, and quite possibly, the lives of others as well. Mr. Sparkle Car Wash is lucky to have him. Lexington is lucky to have him. He sparkles.”

Darold says he's received job offers from other businesses that have noticed his energy. Fortunately for drivers on Richmond Rd, he's happy at Mr. Sparkle.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.