Tylena Lewis, a mother of three, said she left behind her life of domestic violence and homelessness two years ago, but still struggles to provide for her family.
After they moved into the Path of Life Ministries transitional housing facility on March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, she landed an apprenticeship for an on-the-job training program at Angel Wings Bakery in Riverside last October, and has since become its first paid intern.
But she has to work from 3 a.m. to noon, and since her old, high-mileage vehicle became inoperable, and because public transportation doesn’t operate that early, she’s had to rely on a friend for rides.
Her and her family’s life changed Thursday when Ben Clymer’s The Body Shop gave them a restored 2011 Honda Accord with fewer than 98,000 miles, one year of insurance, paid DMV fees and a trunk full of groceries.
“It means the world to me,” Lewis said. “There’s no way for me to provide for my kids but go to work and that will help me stay at work and find another job as well. That’s my goal.”
Now that she has a car she has approval for a full-time position with the bakery. Her supervisor Tracy Fitzsimmins, the CEO of Angel Wings Bakery, completed the car giveaway application for Lewis.
“We’ll be able to have money,” Lewis said. “That’s the only the thing. I just want to keep my job and stable employment for my kids to be able to move out of King Hall into an apartment or a house.”
Its the 12th car given away by Clymer’s in six years. Employees volunteered more than 300 hours to repair the vehicle. They partnered with AAA of Southern California, Enterprise Rent A Car, Martin Auto Color, LKQ Auto Parts, Honda Cars of Corona, Community Connect and Riverside Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey to make it happen.
Community Connect, a Riverside nonprofit group, collected applications, and after factoring in household income and need, reduced them to about 20. Clymer’s office narrowed it down to two, and the whole crew voted on which family would benefit most from the car.
This has never been about a handout,” said Ben Clymer Jr., CEO of the Riverside location. “This program’s about a hand up. So we want to see people that are actually proactively trying to better their situations.”
To be eligible, the recipient must live in Riverside, be eligible to be insured, have a valid driver’s license and need a car.
Lewis’ mother, Tina Marie Turner, said she is grateful her daughter is getting help.
“Her getting out of her situation, and really, really taking a step forward and getting herself back together means a lot,” she said.
“It almost makes me want to cry. She’s gone through a lot, and I’m really happy that she’s getting some help.”
Bailey, who attended the ceremony, emphasized the importance of volunteerism and community.
“We are family in Riverside,” he said. “We take care of each other.”
“I’ve run across situations in my life before where I’ve felt alone, I felt like nobody was going to be there, and so I know what it’s like to have that feeling, and I know Mrs. Lewis knows that feeling as well,” said Shaun Bailey, claims manager for Automobile Club of Southern California. “So to have that reassurance that somebody is indeed going to be there for them in a time of need, you can’t explain it.”
Lewis’s 5-year-old daughter Jaelah Turner said she is most excited about new car seats, and she would like to see Disneyland soon.
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