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Friday, 01 July 2016 18:32

Summerville, SC Car Shops Restore Van for Florence Family

Summerville, SC Car Shops Restore Van for Florence Family

John Mulherin claps after handing Stephanie Odom the keys to her new van. Photo by Monica Kreber/Journal Scene.


Until recently, Florence resident Stephanie Odom, a mother of six, was driving a 2003 Impala, which the single mom used to get her children from point A to point B.

“We just don’t have space in it,” she said. “There was no room for everybody.”

Now Odom has a new set of wheels, thanks to a national mission to help families in need.

Maaco and Meineke of the Car Pros Plaza One-Stop Auto Care in Summerville donated a restored Chrysler Town & Country van to Odom’s family on June 22. In partnership with the National Auto Body Council’s “Recycled Rides” program and the nonprofit organization Family Promise of Florence, Auto Care owners John and Lynn Mulherin were able to help a family emerging from some difficult life circumstances.

Mulherin said the van arrived at his shop in April. His crew worked on it for about six weeks.

When they got the van, the rear end was smashed in and both bumpers were off--it had been through a pretty good crash, he said. The van was sent to the shop specifically to be worked on for restoration to be given to Odom.

Mulherin said Odom is a client of Family Promise of Florence, a nonprofit organization committed to helping struggling families achieve lasting independence. Odom said they came to Family Promise when they were having problems with their house when it needed repairs.

“We had nowhere to go while that was being done, so we stayed with Family Promise,” she said. “And now we’re back home and we needed a vehicle.”

Family Promise applied to the National Auto Body Council's “Recycled Rides” program for a vehicle. Allstate Insurance donated it to be worked on. The National Auto Body Council works across the country to provide donated vehicles to numerous organizations including Family Promise.

“As part of the National Auto Body Council, we support their programs,” Mulherin said. “And when we learned about this particular family and the need, we thought it would be a great thing to do for our neighbors.”

Mulherin was contacted by National Auto Body Council to rebuild the vehicle. Odom said she cried when she found out she was getting a new van.

“It was just amazing. I never expected that,” she said.

Mulherin’s business is a paint and body shop and a mechanic shop. They installed new parts, performed engine work and put on new tires. All parts were donated; Keystone, LKQ Corp., Hoover Chrysler, Axalta and Blackjack’s Towing also donated parts, services and materials.

During the big unveiling on June 22, Odom was given the keys to the van and her excited group of children crawled through the seats. “There’s a TV!” they hollered as they explored the new vehicle and beeped the horn.

Odom said she felt excited.

“This is awesome,” she said.

Now Odom is looking for full-time work and is feeling more optimistic with the new van. “It’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for me,” she said.

Odom was joined by her caseworker, Jo Ellen Schneider, who said Odom has graduated from the Family Promise program and is “doing fantastic.” They were also joined by Anna Toniolo, board chairwoman of Family Promise.

“It’s a great van,” she said. “I think it’s awesome. Couldn’t have picked a nicer family for it to go to.”

We would like to thank The Summerville Journal Scene for reprint permission.

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