Caliber Collision in Gilbert has donated a reclaimed vehicle to a struggling Arizona family as part of the national Recycled Rides Program.
"It’s just like Christmas," said Beth Grieves, who received the car with her husband, Phil, and two sons, David, 10, and Daniel, 12, last week.
"It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever owned," Phil said. "God bless all of you."
The 2009 Toyota Matrix, which was deemed totaled, was donated by Esurance, said Jessica Steans, an Esurance salvage supervisor. Had it otherwise not been donated, it would have been scrapped for parts.
The employees at Caliber donated more than 200 hours of their time to refurbish the car, said John Dixion, the manager of the Gilbert Caliber location.
"We’ve made a commitment to donate 12 vehicles, but it looks like we’ll donate upwards of 15," said Patrick O’Neill, Caliber Collision vice president of operations. "It’s so important to support our community. It’s something that Caliber Collision believes in and something I believe in as an individual, to give back to the community."
However, due to Gilbert area donations of labor, paint and parts, the car was able to be refurbished and donated to a family in need.
"When we think of three things that best describe Gilbert, we think clean, safe and vibrant," said Mayor John Lewis. "Gilbert is nationally the fifth safest city of its size to live in. It’s ranked the 33rd best city to live in. And vibrancy is this right here."
The Grieves began struggling after Phil was unable to find a new job after he was laid off. Shortly after, Beth lost her job as well. The family tried moving back to a few acres in Missouri, but Beth was commuting two hours each way to her nursing job.
After Phil had a number of calls from prospective employers in Arizona, the family moved back to Arizona in the summer of 2011, Beth said.
However, the perspective jobs fell through and an opening at a shelter went to another family, she said.
"I was at a soup kitchen crying," she recalled. "We want to take care of our children. I didn’t want to lose my kids. I even looked at placing them in boys’ homes to give them a more stable environment."
But, as luck would have it, the family was taken into the Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, which helps families escape homelessness through a series of programs to get them back on their feet.
"Homeless families are not the ones you see on TV," said Ted Taylor, Family Promise executive director. "Most of the time, they’re just like us. They look like us, they sound like us. Short of not having a place to stay, transportation is the number one problem for homeless families."
Instead it’s the loss of a job or a lack of savings that leave families on the street, he said.
After 10 weeks, the Grieves were able to graduate from the program and move out on their own. They bought a bank-owned house for $7,500 in Coolidge, Phil found a job as a high school math teacher and the family began to settle, Beth said.
However, their only form of transportation is a 1991 Geo Metro, which Phil uses to get to work about an hour away.
In August, their oldest son Daniel missed the school bus.
"It was a lot farther than I expected," Beth said, who started walking with Daniel, who had a test later that day, to the school nearly nine miles away. "I was in the Army and I thought it wasn’t that far."
After four miles, a kind stranger offered the two a ride, a risk that Beth said gave her hesitation.
Transportation could be an even bigger challenge for the family when Beth’s mother joins the household in a week.
"I can use this car to drive her to doctor appointments," Beth said, whose mother is ill.
It was Family Promise that connected the Grieves with Caliber Collision, Taylor said.
The Grieves received more than just a car — as the car pulled in front of the family, it was loaded with games and clothes for the boys, food for the family’s dog and household items for the family.
"I can save these things for Christmas," Beth said with excitement. "I can put the $500 I was planning on spending on presents into savings."
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