Earlier this month, Vanessa Barbosa was the latest recipient of a refurbished car, due to the generosity of Sidney’s Superior Collision and 53 other community supporters of the annual Christmas program that takes written off vehicles and repairs them to change a family’s life.
“Each year the collision repair industry comes across cars that are written off by either the owner or the insurance company,” said Allison Peters, spokesperson for the AkzoNobel Benevolence Program.
The program, originally started in the U.S.A. in 1999, was embraced by Superior Collision in 2011. Through the program, refurbished cars are presented to deserving individuals in need during the holiday season.
Staff at Superior Collision volunteered their time to make the necessary repairs to the 2006 Ford Escape that was eventually donated to Barbosa but the success of the program is at least equally due to the generous support of some 53 other sponsors.
“Everything was donated,” said Peters. “The vehicle originally came from Northern Shield Insurance but the program succeeded because of the generous support of others as well.”
Peters explained that the Barbosa family was selected from a group of applicants in a process that had to consider factors beyond simple need.
“We have to look at the insurability of the recipient, whether they have a driver’s licence, and, most importantly, whether the recipients can afford to operate the vehicle,” said Peters. “The last thing we want is to give a family something that becomes a burden to them down the road.”
For the Barbosa family, the gift is life altering.
“I’ve had three vehicles in the past year … junkers really … and when the last one broke down I didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Barbosa.
“My sons and I were thrilled … absolutely stunned at the generosity of the community. Thank you so much.”
The News Review asked Barbosa about how she came to need the community’s support and that of the local food bank. It’s a sobering account.
“A year ago, I was one of those people who donated to the food bank,” said Barbosa. “Now I’m a client and without their support and the support of the community, I’m not sure we’d survive. It’s all very humbling.”
Barbosa is a single mother of two boys, aged 6 and 8, who found her life radically altered when her husband left her and the children about a year ago. She had been a stay at home mom who suddenly found herself unemployed and with no support of any kind.
“It was never a situation that I ever anticipated and I found myself in despair,” she said.
“That’s when I reached out to the community and the help I’ve received has been unbelievable. It’s humbling and frightening but we’re slowly finding our way back to where I can stand again. I want to get back to the point where I can repay the kindness of the community that has helped us.”
According to Beverly Elder, executive director of the Sidney Lions Food Bank, Barbosa has already demonstrated that desire to give back.
“Even though she was a client of our food bank, she had this old vehicle and she used it at Thanksgiving to volunteer and help us collect donations,” said Elder. “Vanessa’s situation should be a cautionary story for anyone who thinks that it can never happen to them.
“A lot of people are just a couple of paychecks away from needing help. It’s good to remember that when you think about giving.”
For Barbosa, it’s a lesson that she hopes to pass on to her children.
“I want to teach my children that living in a community is about both giving and receiving, so it’s important to us to look for opportunities to give back,” she said. “We need the help right now, but we’re going to get back and when we do we’ll be here for others.”
Peters said that all the parts and materials needed for the repairs were donated, as was the first year’s auto insurance (thanks to Coast Capital Insurance). In addition, Barbosa’s family was thrilled to find that the vehicle had been filled with food and gifts — all designed to make the Christmas season a wee bit happier for the family of three.
“We got annual passes donated for the Panorama Recreation Centre, as well as passes to Butchart Gardens, the Butterfly Gardens and the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney,” said Peters.
— Tim Collins/News staff