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Victims of domestic violence 'driving way to freedom'

Janet Basta, left, hugs Appollonia Gaines on Saturday after they both received a car from a program that utilizes donated mechanic work.
Janet Basta, left, hugs Appollonia Gaines on Saturday after they both received a car from a program that utilizes donated mechanic work.
August Miller, Deseret Morning News

The cars were lined up in the parking lot: a little 10-year-old Chevy Cavalier, a couple of Honda Accords from early in the past decade, a sporty 29-year-old Mercedes missing part of its front grill.

Eighteen cars in all, each serviced for free by an independent Utah auto shop, and each one destined for a woman referred by area domestic violence shelters.

The idea, explained Jeff Crockett, a parts distributor for Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper certified service centers along the Wasatch Front, is that too often women are stuck as they try to rebuild their lives. A reliable car, the idea goes, will help them "drive their way to freedom."

Eighteen Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper certified service centers from Providence to Springville donated their time, and Henderson Wheel and Warehouse donated the parts to fix up cars donated by area residents. The campaign, in conjunction with Charity Cars, is hoping to donate more than 500 refurbished cars nationwide in the next few months.

Utah's campaign culminated Saturday morning at a ceremony in the parking lot of Murray High School. Several auto shop dignitaries spoke, and then, as it began to drizzle, Amy Anderson stepped into her new used Chevy festooned with a red and black balloon, and took a short ceremonial drive across the parking lot.

When she finally left her husband last winter, she had to ask her parents for a ride to a domestic violence shelter. By then — after too many black eyes and missed days of work — she'd lost her job and then her car. Now, with a new job and new confidence, she says she's happy she'll have a reliable car to get her from Park City to training sessions in the Salt Lake Valley.

Like many of the other women who received cars, Anderson used a pseudonym. Some women were even too afraid to show up for the festivities. Caseworkers from the CAPSA domestic violence shelter in Logan served as proxies for two clients.

"There's a tragedy in that, isn't there?" said caseworker Anne Coleman. "That the women need to protect their identity from men who, in the final analysis, might kill them."

Five of the car recipients came from the Peace House shelter in Park City. One of their former clients, noted Karen Koerselman, worked in housekeeping at a Park City resort, where pre-dawn start times meant she couldn't rely on public transportation. Another client will now be able to drive to less expensive child care.

The domestic violence car campaign began in 2005, when auto shops in Chicago donated 100 cars in "the largest single car giveaway in the country's history," according to Steve Marks, senior vice president of marketing with Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper.