Elizabeth Douglas stepped out of her ride to and into a dream.
As employees sang Christmas carols and a few photographers raised cameras, Douglas watched as a beige Toyota Camry–soon to be her beige Toyota Camry–with a bright, red bow atop its roof rolled out of one of the bays.
She was stunned.
“Oh, my God, are you serious?” she said, choking back tears.
They were serious.
Douglas, a singe mom of three boys, who has spent about seven years commuting via bus from Washington Township to her job in Woodbury, doesn’t have to worry about that commute any longer, thanks to Boggs Auto’s eighth annual car donation Thursday, in association with the National Benevolence Program.
As she walked over with her 2-year-old son, Xavier, in her arms to get a closer look and pick up the keys, she could only voice her thanks and say, “Wow,” over and over.
“I cannot believe this,” she said. “I don’t know what to say; this is crazy.”
The surprise was sprung on her by Pat Colna, the owner of Tra-cee’s Nursery School in Woodbury, who sent a letter to Boggs Auto, asking them to consider Douglas for this year’s program.
Colna has watched Douglas walk through downpours and snowstorms to get her kids to the nursery school before going to work, and called the donation a good moment for a good person.
“She was so deserving,” Colna said. “I’ve just been waiting all week for this.”
For the employees at Boggs, it was a special moment, too.
“It’s my favorite day of the year,” said Jason Boggs, the company’s chief operations manager, as he briefed employees before the big event. “We’re about to change someone’s life.”
His father, company owner Jim Boggs, said the car giveaway is one thing he knows everyone in the company will help to bring to fruition every year.
“It’s a real community project, and everyone buys into it,” he said.
Of course, the element of surprise plays a role in the donation every year. This year, the plan was originally to take the car to McDonald’s, where Douglas works, but that fell through when she had to take a sick day to take care of Xavier.
That’s where Colna jumped in, bringing Douglas to Boggs Auto under the impression that she had to pay a bill before taking Douglas over to get some donated toys for the boys.
They were in such a rush to get over to the body shop, Douglas said she was totally floored.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t even know.”
Somehow, she didn’t notice the child’s car seat hidden in the back of Colna’s SUV, either.
Douglas said getting the car is a dream come true, especially in light of her struggles in the past few years. She’d been trying to save her money to get a car on her own, squirreling away tax refunds and what little she could spare, but life kept getting in the way.
“A bill would come, I had a baby…I had to do what I had to do,” she said.
Colna said that was one of the reasons she wrote the letter recommending Douglas, and said she was overjoyed when she heard back a few weeks ago that Douglas was going to be the one.
This year was a little tighter than most, Jason Boggs said.
They got the car on Nov. 31, after it was written off in an accident that damaged the left front side of the car.
With employees pitching in volunteer hours on nights and weekends, and suppliers donating parts and paint, they were able to get it done on schedule.
“We were sweating bullets,” Jason Boggs said.
The end result was a car in fantastic shape, he said, with little or no maintenance needed for the next four or five years.
Besides the car donation, Boggs Auto also got Cettei & Connell to donate a year’s worth of car insurance–the seventh year the agency has taken part–and got donations for a gas card to cover the first few weeks’ of driving.