Two cars gifted in annual East Bay holiday tradition

ANTIOCH, Calif.

Mike Wallace, who owns a string of auto body shops in the East Bay is known as a very generous man. For instance, next year, he will take all 300 of his employees and their spouses on a four-day cruise.

But another program he started has become a big deal. Sometime in the last decade, an annual party in Antioch evolved into a major holiday tradition -- not only because guests can automatically plan on gaining weight, but also because of the centerpieces.

"I know I'm going to get one. I just don't know what it is. And I'm excited," Susan Greene said before Wednesday's event.

"I cried and screamed," Ebony Berry recalled.

When they arrived Wednesday, they had no wheels, just hardships. Susan is a single mother with two special needs kids. "I've been borrowing my mother's car, or my best friend gives me a ride," she said.

Not anymore. Susan is now the proud owner of a 2010 Honda Accord. And Ebony is the proud owner of a 2008 Toyota. Both cars were in wrecks and both were totaled -- until insurance companies donated them, parts companies gave parts, and technicians gave time and the cars now look new again.

"It's a great feeling. It's nice to be able to help somebody out that's down on their luck," technician Cameron Lewis told ABC7 News.

As Rose remembers, it began with just one car. "We figured we'd give one car away and that would be good enough. Who would have thought that, 13 years later, they would have given away 44 cars and changed the lives of so many people?

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