ANTIOCH -- Kayla Walker wiped tears from her eyes when she opened the door of a shiny white Ford Focus.
"Oh my goodness," said the 22-year-old single mother whose life has now become a lot more manageable with a proper set of wheels. "I just can't believe this is happening. It's going to help me get to work and get my daughter to school and just help me with life in general."
Happen it did, to Walker and four other residents who received the keys to refurbished used vehicles through a community benevolence program coordinated by Mike's Auto Body to help out financially struggling families.
Insurance companies donate cars that have been written off as a result of accident damage. The vehicles are then fixed up by Mike's mechanics, with vendors donating parts, tires and paint, to get them in tiptop cosmetic and mechanic condition.
The five recipients who received the refurbished late-model used cars Wednesday at Mike's Antioch location were selected from a group of 160 applicants.
During the 12 years the benevolence program has existed, some 40 vehicles have been donated.
Owner Mike Rose couldn't let the event go by without making a reference to the day it fell on before the people who made the program happen were thanked and the recipients got their cars.
"This is our 12th year," he said. "Today happens to be 12/12/12."
The 2008 Ford Focus is Walker's first car. The Vacaville resident first heard the news that she had been selected while working at her job as a manager of a Burger King. That job is now easier to get to with her car, said Walker, who did a lot of walking to get to places and became an expert on local bus routes while not having a car.
Sam Utu, a Fairfield resident who is in the Army National Guard, smiled broadly when he opened to the door of his family's 2007 PT Cruiser.
"It's going to make everything easier for us," said the 36-year married father of two teenage boys who was relying on rides from friends and public transportation before getting the PT Cruiser. After he and his wife lost their jobs, the family had to move into a homeless shelter. The family has since moved into a home, and Utu recently started a job as truck driver after completing a truck-driving course.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her at Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.