"We figured this was a good way to give back to the community"
Editor in Chief
Monday, January 8, 2024
Noemi Morales hugs Jaymie Persaud, co-owner of Main Street Collision, after she receives the keys to her new car on Jan. 4, 2024.
A Winter Garden resident started off the New Year with a big smile and a sense of relief thanks to some local heroes at Main Street Collision, Daniel's Cheesesteak House and V Tech IT Services.
Noemi Morales woke up Christmas Eve to discover her car had been repossessed. The mom of three relies on her car for her business of driving people to medical appointments. Suddenly, she was stranded and unemployed. She reached out to District 2 Winter Garden Commissioner Ron Mueller and told him about her predicament. Mueller said that "really touched my heart," and he immediately swung into action, posting about the family in need on the NextDoor platform.
"It was Christmas Eve and immediately people started reaching out, asking, What can I do?" Mueller told a small press gathering Thursday at Main Street Collision. "They brought food, they brought gift cards, they brought clothing for her children."
Help poured in from around Winter Garden, including the one essential item that Morales could not live without: a car.
Thanks to the local heroes at Main Street Collision on Plant Street, Morales now has the keys, tag and title to a Toyota Corolla.
"I'm really emotional. I have a lot of feelings. I'm shaking," Morales told a gaggle of reporters when she saw the white sedan parked in front of Main Street Collision Thursday. She was overcome by the magnitude of generosity bestowed on her family. She said she had been falling behind on her rent and bills. Without her high car payment now, she will have a chance to catch up.
"This isn't something that happens every day. I needed help, and the community of Winter Garden came through for me. To be blessed with a car. I would have never thought in a million years that this would happen," she said.
Jaymie Persaud, co-owner of Main Street Collision, told VoxPopuli that he'd seen Mueller's post on NextDoor and wanted to contribute.
"We figured this was a good way to give back to the community and try to help her out as best as we can."
Persaud who hails from Queens, New York, said the auto body shop, run by his family, has been in Winter Garden for 14 years, but that this was the first time the business had made such a charitable gesture. The Toyota had been sitting on their lot for about two years. Persaud said he restored it, detailed it, repainted it.
"We did some stripes down the sides in colors that she liked. We made it look like a new car for her," he said.
Vish Baijnauth of V Tech IT Services paid to register the 2010 vehicle. Mercedes Masih-Das, owner of Daniel's Cheesesteak House, next door to Main Street Collision, filled the car's trunk with groceries for Morales and her children Anaiya, 16, Jovan, 12 and Xavier, 6.
Huddling together, the kids said they are "very happy" about the car. "Finally, we won't be stuck at the house all day," said Anaiya, who was all smiles.
When it was time to leave, the kids scrambled into the back and Morales got behind the wheel.
"Beautiful," she said when she turned the key for the first time. "Just beautiful."
The car even had a full tank of gas.