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December 20, 2005 > Wheels for Mary

Wheels for Mary

by Kathy Mello

Each year, the collision repair industry comes across cars that are "written off" by either the owner or an insurance company. Often these are older vehicles that just need some mechanical and body work to get them road ready and perfectly safe to drive.

The "waste" of such cars prompted Akzo Nobel Acoat (car refinishing products) to create the National Benevolence Program presenting refurbished cars to deserving individuals or organizations during the holiday season.

Shops participating in the program work with a local charities to help identify an individual or group in need of a vehicle. This year, TGIF Body Shop worked with Crossroads Church's Outreach and Mary Ingram was selected to receive a car donated by Walt's Mission Pass Tow. The restoration and support effort was accomplished by a team of volunteers including Rich's Smog (mechanical check), TGIF and Akzo (metal work), King Kovers (upholstery). All parts were donated by San Leandro Nissan and tires were supplied by Irvington Tire and Brake. Mary will even get a pair of special shoes courtesy of Foot Solutions.

Mary's difficulties began with a car accident when she was a 12 years old. A friend's grandfather was driving both of them home from a shopping mall when they were broadsided. Mary had multiple injuries and two broken legs, one nearly severed leaving lasting injuries and disability.

Reaching adulthood, the sudden death of Mary's mother left her with responsibility of raising her 5-year-old brother. When his absentee father returned to reclaim his son, the loss was more than she could bear. The emotional and physical pain from these traumas resulted in an addiction to prescription drugs. After two failed marriages, being separated from her brother, and a few bad relationships (which included domestic violence), Mary decided to make a change to improve her life.

A friend drove her back to California for a new start. Lost on a country road, they veered off and ended up overturned in a river. The only thing she remembers is seeing the water rising to her head and hearing someone say "Mary give me your hands. " After that she found herself lying on the shore attended by medical personnel. Although she was not injured, she lost her remaining belongings and the money she received from selling her car.

During the last year, Mary has gone from being homeless to working and having a small apartment of her own with the help of Catholic Social Services and a local church group who furnished it. Mary spent many early mornings and late nights on the bus getting to and from her two jobs, walking in the dark and rain. In November, her foot flared up, threatening to spoil her livelihood. She cried a lot, but persevered.

On Dec. 15 Mary was surprised with a refurbished vehicle enabling her to save the strain on her "bad" foot and consider a higher paying job. Her passion is to work with the elderly as an activities director and to help bring joy into their lives. She'll not only have a pearl white car, and insurance for a year, but she will also have a new pair of orthopedic shoes to assist her. During the ceremony, people were so moved that additional offers of assistance were given including a pledge from workers at TGIF Body Shop to contribute the value of any comp time to Mary. If you ask her, Mary will confirm that this is indeed a season of miracles.

Merry Christmas to all!

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