For Nancy Valencia and her children, the walk to school each morning from the motel where they are staying was a hair-raising trek down a busy frontage road, cars blazing past them as they tread cautiously along the narrow shoulder. The trip was even more miserable in the cold and rain.
Valencia couldn’t afford a car. But through the collective efforts of the school, a local auto body shop, an insurance company and San Joaquin Delta College students, her children don’t have take that dangerous journey any longer.
Valencia was presented with a newly restored Honda Fit this spring. She wiped away tears as she opened the driver’s side door for the first time and climbed inside.
“I could not believe it,” she said. “I finally have a reliable car. I can take my kids to school, to doctor’s appointments, and find a house.”
For their part, Delta students were happy to help. Not only did they get a chance to try out their repair skills on a relatively new car, but they assisted a family in need at the same time.
“At first I thought it was like any other project,” said Felipe Rosas, who is studying automotive technology and auto body restoration. “It’s pretty heartwarming to help somebody out like that, you know? It’s quite an experience.”
The project started with Davis Elementary School teacher Jennifer Willis, who saw the family walking to school in the cold and alerted her principal, Damon Auchard. They began to think of ways to help.
Enter Fabian Ceballos, owner of Fabian’s Collision Center. Ceballos participates in the Recycled Rides program, which takes damaged cars donated by insurance companies – in this case, Esurance – and restores them for those in need.
Ceballos, who organized and funded this latest restoration, teamed up with Delta Professor Larry Mariani to involve Delta students for the first time. They spent about eight weeks making the car look like new again.
And for their efforts, those students and all of the other concerned community members who made this happen have earned Valencia’s thanks.
“I never expected this,” she said.