DealershipsGivingBack: Kelly Moreno had to look out her window Friday morning to make sure the Ford Fiesta she was given Thursday by Jenkins Auto Group as part of an ongoing community outreach program was really in her driveway.
“I’m so happy, so grateful,” said Moreno, 39, a single mom.
Having a car means Moreno can take her 11-year-old son, Jouse Morales, to school and get to work without having to get up at 5:30 a.m. and leaving at 6 to walk a mile to a bus stop.
“The worst part was the weather,” she joked.
Moreno’s world changed last year when the pandemic struck.
Moreno was living in Gainesville and driving about 20 miles north to Alachua to operate her nutrient supplement shop while tending to her son.
Then, by April, the bottom had fallen out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The business, Nutrition Journey, was closed and my investment went down the drain,” Moreno said.
Moreno’s car was soon repossessed and she was late with a month’s apartment rent payment, which caused her to be canceled for a new rental contract. Her entire family, including Jouse, her mother, and her adult daughter, were affected.
“It was hard,” she said. Moreno and her son stayed with friends.
Moreno began sending out perhaps 300 employment applications and eventually she got work, first with a dental office in Ocala in June and then in a legal office.
Since Moreno arrived in Ocala she has walked her son to the bus stop and waited with him.
The 2013 Ford Fiesta was presented to Moreno on Thursday in a brief event at Jenkins Kia on State Road 200.
The “Welcome to the Family” community car presentation is a program supported by Jenkins Auto Group’s Acura, Mazda, Kia, and Hyundai dealerships in Ocala. Jenkins Auto Group has 13 dealership locations in Ocala, Gainesville, Leesburg, Jacksonville, and Lithia Springs, Georgia.
Some 21 car recipients have been selected over five years for the program by board members of the local charitable outreach known as Community With A Heart.
The recipient is chosen from people who need transportation to lift themselves up and improve their family’s situation.
CWAH board Chair Monica Bryant and board members Lena Hopkins and Scott Hackmyer were on hand at the presentation.
Stephanie Walker, whom Moreno met in Ocala, suggested she apply for the car program and referred her to CWAH. She joined Moreno at the presentation to congratulate her.
The keys to the Fiesta were presented to Moreno by Jenkins Auto Group President and CEO Tom Formanak, flanked by Jenkins Auto Group Customer Relations Director Maria Patino.
Jenkins Auto Group staff has selected additional recipients from the area but the figure was not immediately available.
Moreno said the application was made in December and during the wait, she thought others more deserving might have been selected. But her son always kept the faith.
“Jouse said, ‘Don’t worry, we have God,’ ” Moreno said.