Cars awarded to deserving East Bay residents

December 17, 2010 1:01:17 PM PST
For the 10th straight year, some grateful East Bay residents with extraordinary stories received automobiles for Christmas. They are not new -- but as good as new.

Some people have all the luck or, in one woman's case, an utter and potentially devastating absence of it. Her car that only goes 30 miles per hour is the least of her problems.

"I know at some point it will break down. I pray to God, please don't let anything happen."

For now, home is one room she shares with three children in an East Bay shelter for battered women.

"I don't know how it happened. It could happen to anybody. I never thought it could happen to me."

Such tribulations ought to be more than enough for anybody, but for this woman, there is more. She has to draw blood from her 5-year-old daughter who has leukemia.

Hers was just one of many compelling stories that Sal Contreras looked through in letter form this year.

"It just gives me the goosebumps every time I think about this program," he said.

By now, it's become a Christmas tradition. Every year, Sal, the people at Mike Rose Autobody and dozens of others in the auto repair and insurance industries take totaled cars, rebuild them and then give them to people in need.

Technicians like Arnulfo Romero donate the labor and vote on the recipients.

"You don't think about the time you spend. You just want to make someone happy," he said.

Last year, single mother of two Kelly Houston received one of those cars and thanks to the vehicle, she found a job quite away from home as an office manager. The difference it made in her life is not exactly subtle.

"I wouldn't be working. We would probably be homeless," she said.

For a 10th straight year, the program awarded four cars, which brings the total to 30 for the decade.

For this woman, there will be no more highway breakdowns and no worries about getting her sick daughter to the doctor. This car is no small gift for a woman with profound needs.


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