Jamie Smith, a single mother of two, and Alana Yates, a single mother of three, recently received the gift of transportation, thanks to Zara’s Collision Center’s Benevolence Program.
Zara’s Collision Center, in Springfield, Ill., has restored and donated 35 vehicles since launching the program 19 years ago.
Smith, a Contact Ministries resident and Walmart employee, along with her daughter Erica, 12, and son Ethan, 9, attended a luncheon ceremony at Zara’s, during which they received a totally refurbished 2009 Chevy Equinox.
Yates, also a Contact Ministries resident and employed by Help at Home, along with her son Andrew, 15, and daughters Amelah, 7, and Aday’ah, 5, became owners of a 2007 Hyundai Entourage.
“It’s very stressful getting to and from work without a vehicle,” said Smith. “I always worry about my kids missing the bus and getting to school without a car. I hate depending on other people for rides. I worry a lot about losing my job because I don’t have a car and have to be at the mercy of others.”
Yates said she’s working toward becoming an RN of surgery and owning a business.
“I’m attending Midwest Technical Institute four nights a week to become a certified medical assistant,” Yates said. “Friends and babysitters give me rides to school and back to the shelter. I was terrified that would give out and I wouldn’t be able to continue my program. Having my own dependable vehicle will make all the difference in my life and my children’s – more hours at work, get to school earlier, more freedom with my children.”
To be eligible for a vehicle as part of the Benevolence Program, a person must be associated with a not-for-profit agency or church, have a valid driver’s license, a good driving record and a verified need for a vehicle.
“What speaks to us for both of these women is their desire to achieve more in life by focusing on the right things – faith, family, work and perseverance, ” said Julie Zara, co-owner of Zara’s Collision Center. “We’re so excited for them, and can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds for their lives and children.”
One of the vehicles presented was donated by a couple from the Springfield community; the other was donated by a local auto dealership. Zara’s coordinated all repairs, mechanical work and preparation for road readiness.
Zara’s vendors, employees, friends, family and insurance agents also actively support the program. Nearly 50 donors contributed to the program this year for items such as vehicle repair, paint material, mechanical work, gift cards and monetary gifts exceeding $8,000.
When restoring a vehicle, Zara’s performs a comprehensive maintenance check to verify the vehicle’s safety and reliability.