Four local families received early Christmas presents from Santa Claus and the elves at Mike Rose's Auto Body in Antioch last week. The presents included a refurbished car for each family, toys and food for the holidays.
The "Benevolence Program" has become a holiday tradition for the locally owned business and a huge help for the recipients.
For Oakley's Susan Greene, one of the recipients of the Benevolence Program, having a new car will mean the chance of expanding her work hours and getting her two special-needs sons to necessary appointments.
"This car is going to be a big help in getting to work every day," Greene said.
A single mother, Greene has been relying on friends and family to help get her from place to place. A car of her own means the opportunity to move from being a school district substitute paraprofessional to having a full-time position.
"I've been borrowing my mom's car and asking my best friend for rides," she said. "This will be a big help."
Each of the cars, which included the Accord, a 2008 Toyota Corolla, a 2005 Chevrolet Classic and a 2006 Chrysler Pacifica Van, came with a trunk packed with presents for each child for the holidays, along with gift cards, gas cards and food.
The Contra Costa County Fire District was also on hand with donations of a refurbished bicycle and helmet for each child.
"Giving a car away is something," Fire Battalion Chief Richard Sonteng said. "But you can't beat the face of a little girl when you give her a pretty pink bicycle."
In it's 13th year, the Benevolence Program started by just giving one car away and has grown over the years.
"This is something the whole company takes a lot of pride in and gets involved in," said Dane Dearlove, one of the event coordinators.
Mike Rose's Auto Body, or Mike's Auto Body, has been in business since 1972 and has locations throughout the county.
They opened location No. 12 in San Ramon earlier this month. Many of the employees have their hand in someway in refurbishing the cars, as well as helping to find donations for parts from the company's vendors.
This year four insurance companies provided the totaled cars to be repaired, including CSAA Insurance Group, Mercury Insurance, Farmer's Insurance and newcomer to the program, Nationwide.
Another recipient of the program was Ebony Berry, whose husband has served in the military for 12 years and is currently deployed in Afghanistan. For the past several months Berry, her 11-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son have struggled to make ends meet after an allotment error occurred in her husband's pay.
Without a vehicle, she had to take public transportation to do simple chores like picking up groceries and getting the children to school. Recently Berry graduated with a medical assistant degree and now she will need a car for work as well.
"I just want to thank the people from Mike's Auto Body so much," she said. "I knew that we were getting a car, but I never expected anything like this. Its wonderful."