Barbara and her children have good reason to smile after receiving their great Christmas gift. They are seen here with representatives of State Farm Insurance Company and Sterling Auto Body Centers, who helped make this Christmas a merry one for the Wright family.

Barbara and her children have good reason to smile after receiving their great Christmas gift. They are seen here with representatives of State Farm Insurance Company and Sterling Auto Body Centers, who helped make this Christmas a merry one for the Wright family.

by Sally Cohen

Two local hard-working, formerly homeless families received the gift of transportation just in time for the holidays!

Imagine waiting for the bus after a long day of work, and it never shows up. Imagine walking home, a trip on foot that will take you four hours. Consider what it’s like to be a single mother of three, a victim of domestic violence, in fear for your safety and without reliable transportation. These are realities for two women who accepted the gift of transportation at Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN)’s Empty Bowl held last month at Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave in Mt. Airy.

Sterling Auto Body Centers of Huntingdon Valley and West Chester partnered with Allstate and State Farm insurance companies to totally refurbish a 2011 Hyundai Sonata and 2006 Chevy Impala to give the families. The vehicles were donated as part of Recycled Rides, a nationwide community service project whereby members of the National Auto Body Council (NABC) repair and donate recycled vehicles to families and service organizations in need.

“Families were selected by lottery, but the winners had to demonstrate to our Board that they were up to date with rent payments and had sufficient monthly savings to manage the cost of insurance, routine maintenance and unexpected repairs without putting their regular monthly expenses in jeopardy,” according to Shirlyn Swann, NPIHN’s Vice President.

“We are so grateful to the Allstate Insurance Company and State Farm insurance for donating the salvage vehicles, Sterling Auto Body employees for refurbishing them, and to the Recycled Rides program for organizing these car matches. It proves that if everyone does their little part, we can make an enormous difference in a family’s life.”

One recipient was Barbara Wright, who had moved from public housing in Philadelphia to Sicklerville, NJ, so her children could be in better schools. “She was a guest in our program eight years ago, and we have been working with her family ever since,” said Rachel Falkove, Executive Director of NPIHN.

“She did a remarkable job saving from her work as an attendant care aide for people with disabilities. When she got the phone call telling her that she was picked for the car, she had just come in the door after walking home for four hours when no bus came.”

The other winner has also been working with NPIHN. She is the mother of three active and talented teenagers and resides in West Oak Lane following her stay with NPIHN, but she has requested that her name not be used in this article because of her history as a victim of domestic violence.

“The great part of her story,” Falkove told us, “is that the Unitarian Universalist Church on Gowen Avenue in Mt. Airy has employed  her since she stayed with the Network in their church, and all came to the Empty Bowl Dinner to cheer as she was receiving the car.”

Her car, a 2011 Hyundai Sonata, was repaired by Sterling Auto in Huntington Valley and donated as a salvage vehicle by Allstate Insurance.

The two cars were wrapped in giant bows and were awarded at the Empty Bowl Dinner, the annual community fundraiser for NPIHN, which is located at 7047 Germantown Ave. All titles were transferred in time for Christmas. NPIHN’s work is to provide hospitality, housing and supportive services for families of the community who are experiencing or recovering from a time of homelessness.

For more information, contact 215-247-4663 (ext 100) or rachel@philashelter.org.