NEW GARDEN >> Christmas came early for one of the poorest families in Chester County.
Last week, the Morales family’s van broke down. Jose and Doravelia Morales have come to rely on the old van to transport their daughter Maria, 10, back and forth to A.I. duPont Hospital for Children every week. Maria, who attends Bancroft Elementary School, weighed just over a pound when she was born, and had heart surgery at two months old. Doravelia calls her a “miracle child” and she’s had health issues all of her life.
Doravelia immediately called Veronica Jackson, a case worker at Kennett Area Community Services, where the family receives food and rental assistance. They live in a trailer in New Garden and often find it hard to put food on the table. The family has few possessions and live below the 200 percent federal poverty guideline. Doravelia stays home to care for Maria and the family lives on a small income from Jose and Maria’s Social Security.
“She called me and she was crying,” Jackson said. “She was in a panic mode and didn’t know what to do. That family depends on that van. They have medical appointments.”
Even Jose, 60, needs it to get to the doctor’s frequently. He has stomach cancer and is in constant pain.
When Jackson got off the phone, she reported the conversation to Melanie Weiler, executive director of Kennett Area Food Cupboard. Ironically, Weiler just got off the phone with Nick O’Neill, a member of the Longwood Rotary Club, who said he wanted to donate a car his son had won at a recent Unionville Senior Prom. O’Neill said he wanted it to go to a needy family.
“It’s amazing the way this happened,” Jackson said. “Things happen for a reason. It seemed like it was meant to be.”
But the car, a 2008 Honda Accord, needed work. O’Neill took it to J&G Automotive in Kennett Square to get it inspected, and was told it needed major repairs. When O’Neill said he was donating the car to a needy family, Liz and Giuseppe (Joe) DeAngelis said they would donate their labor. But O’Neill still had to come up with $1,000 — the cost of the parts for the car.
Enter the Longwood Rotary Club.
Ted Trevorrow, president of the Longwood Rotary Club, discovered the need for $1,000 and the club raised the funds in a few hours. O’Neill got the car inspected and on Saturday, drove it to a shopping center in New Garden and placed a Christmas bow on it.
The Morales family was taken there, and had no idea they were about to be given a car free of charge, compliments of the Longwood Rotary Club, J&G Automotive, and the Simpers Insurance Agency, which donated auto transfer fees.
As they approached the car, they saw the bow.
“Feliz Navidad,” said members of the Longwood Rotary Club.
There were tears. Doravelia had a hard time walking as she wiped her face from the moisture.
“God bless you,” said Jose, who speaks very little English.
There were hugs. Maria hopped in the driver’s seat, looked around and smiled. She translated some of what was being said to her father.
“My son won the car at the prom and drove it for a number of years,” O’Neill said. “He didn’t need it anymore and I called the Food Cupboard to see if they had someone who could use it.”
Trevorrow said the Longwood Rotary Club is happy to help members of the community in need.
“This is a perfect project,” he said. “We did something for a family to help a problem. We just enjoy doing this sort of thing. That’s what Rotary is all about. We will follow up to make sure this car runs well for this family in the next few weeks.”
We’re happy to help them out,” said Liz DeAngelis, co-owner of J&G Automotive, who has been in business for nearly 25 years. “This was a family that needed help.”
Local residents reacted after they learned of the plight of the family through this newspaper’s social media site.
“I am so proud to tell everyone I meet that I am from Kennett Square,” said Janet Claudio Quintana.
“Wish more people did the same more often,” said Terry Vosburgh.
“Blessings to everyone involved in making this awesome gesture a reality,” said Scott Brandt, “Humanity is not totally lost.”
“We need more people like this in the world and I hope and pray the sick family members get well soon,” said Michelle Gentry. “I hope all involved have a very Merry Christmas.”
“This story is beautiful and it’s wonderful what the Rotary did for this family,” said Lucero Benites. “Very inspirational and appreciative for the things I have.”
“The Morales family are the nicest people,” said Dalie Pena Santos. “I am so happy for them.”
“This is a great uplifting story,” said Cheryl Faux-Patterson. “I love the Kennett Square community I live in.”