by Linda Hunter
For Brentwood Bay’s Johnathan Smith and Kelly Sterling, “family” is number one. With five young children under 12 along with a 16-year-old nephew, raising six dependents is their first priority, with health and wellness a close second. Their journey has been difficult at times: the past two years have included trips to the local Food Bank, difficulties holding down full-time work due to serious illness and surgeries, and reliance on one unreliable family vehicle. Grateful for the love and support of a caring community, they have struggled to move beyond a “family in need.”
The load, however, lightened a little last month, when Johnathan accepted the news by phone that his family had been selected as the 2013 Akzo Nobel Benevolence Program recipients. “Nothing has come easy to us; usually this type of thing happens to other people.”
The gift came from the Akzo Nobel Acoat selected National Benevolence Program, a North American wide collision repair industry initiative. Taking vehicles that have been “written off,” the program refurbishes them to provide a road-worthy vehicle in order to greatly improve someone’s life. At the local level, collision repair shops such as Sidney’s Superior Collision, now owned by Rob and Allison Peters, get involved, and last month they provided not only a car, but the support of over 65 other community donors in the form of a life-changing Christmas present.
For the Peters’, the selection process meant connecting with local agencies to find individuals or families who fit the program’s criteria. With the intent of providing a vehicle to a family in need, the gift must be viable, not represent a burden and the recipient must be a licensed driver, and able to provide insurance, gas, and maintenance for the vehicle on an ongoing basis. Asked what the program means to their team, Allison responds: “We live and work in a community that supports its own. Providing a hardworking and deserving family with this gift will hopefully improve their situation.”
For Sidney Lions Food Bank Administrator Bev Elder, helping to select a family was easy: “we knew that the Smith family was one that would be grateful and for whom the vehicle would make a real difference.” Johnathan was already a driver, and Kelly was within months of securing her first driving license, so they fit the bill.
In December, community members gathered to see the keys and a host of amazing gifts presented to the Smith family, every aspect donated: from the car, repair parts, mechanics’ time and paint to an initial term of insurance, gas and roadside assistance, and gifts that included groceries, tourist attraction passes, gift cards and vouchers, and a new computer.
What does it mean to Johnathan’s family? “With two vehicles, Kelly will have the reliable car during the day to run errands, and when I am working the night shift, she’ll have a car at home in case she has an emergency with the children.”
As a new year unfolds, the Smiths are moving forward, with improved health on the horizon, their names high on a list for affordable housing, and a beautiful reliable car along with a host of new experiences. Proof once again that as a community we can make miracles happen, and that John Donne was right when he penned, “No man is an island.”