Two-year-old Nathan Stevenson checks out the controls on a 2005 Dodge Neon with his overjoyed mom Ashley

Two-year-old Nathan Stevenson checks out the controls on a 2005 Dodge Neon with his overjoyed mom Ashley

Car giveaway drives families forward

A tough year for a couple of Vernon families has turned around thanks to the gift of transportation, just in time for Christmas

A tough year for a couple of Vernon families has turned around thanks to the gift of transportation, just in time for Christmas.

“I’m just shaking,” said Lee Schultz, as she and her husband Darwin showed up at Star Autobody Friday morning to collect the keys to a reliable set of wheels.

Single mom Ashley Stevenson tried to hold back the waterworks as she realized she wouldn’t have to walk across town to get diapers for her son anymore.

“This has been, by far, the best Chistmas present ever.”

Stevensen and her two-year-old son Nathan, as well as the Schultz family, were nominated in the seventh annual Christmas Car Giveaway put on by Star and Manfred’s Autobody. The pair of body shops sifted through approximately 30 heart-wrenching stories to determine who would most benefit from the vehicles (a 2007 Ford Freestar minivan and a 2005 Dodge Neon).

“We went through two boxes of kleenex I think,” said Errol Thompson, manager at Manfred’s. “Every family deserved a car, I wish we could have given away 30.”

For Stevenson, the gift of a vehicle is a life-changer.

“It means I can go get groceries when I need to and go to work without taking a cab,” said the young mom who was in a car accident last December and hasn’t been able to afford a vehicle.

“I’ve been pushing (the stroller) through the snow and walking everywhere.”

Not only will the car save her time and money and make her life a little easier, it opens up the door to a brighter future.

She has been wanting to get into deputy sheriff training in New Westminster, but without a vehicle, “it wasn’t even a possibility, I had no way to get there.

“Now I can go forth and submit an application. It’s a possibility now,” she said, as her son played with the buttons and knobs in their new Dodge Neon.

“I think I’m still a little bit in shock,” said Stevenson, who actually earned three nominations, including one from her landlord.

Like Stevenson, a reliable vehicle means the world to the Schultz family.

Up until now, Darwin has been driving five days a week to his job in Falkland in a 1996 Honda Accord with more than 400,000 kilometres.

He and his wife Lee have two children, including 11-year-old Bethany who has severe autism.

“She’s non-verbal so it makes it tough,” said Lee, who worries about Darwin everyday he goes to work while she stays home.

Along with some major engine problems and concerns, their car needed new brakes, headlights, seatbelts in the back and more.

“It needs to be parked, it’s not safe for the kids,” said Darwin.

Therefore the Ford Freestyle is a dream, particularly coming off of a tough year.

Darwin actually lost his initial job earlier this year so the family was living in a campground for two months while they saved up money for a rental deposit.

Being in a home, and now being able to safely drive to work and appointments for their daughter has things looking up for the family.

“I’m not worried about the wheels falling off and engine blowing up,” smiled Darwin as he played with the controls in the van.

Along with the vehicles, which have been cleaned up and thoroughly checked over and any necessary repairs made, both come with one year of Access Roadside through Western Financial Group and oil changes for a year from Pennzoil Qwik Change Oil and Lube.