When Jenny Haspod and her family were picked up Saturday and driven to Henry Curtis Ford, they had the feeling something was afoot. Still, Haspod couldn't believe it when she saw a van, packed with toys, and a parking lot full of smiling employees waiting for them at the lot.
The Petaluma family, who recently found themselves living out of a hotel room in Rohnert Park without a vehicle, desperately needed a mode of transportation with which to get their school-age children to school in Petaluma and their 1 1/2-year-old boy, who has a heart condition that requires regular medical attention, to the doctor.
Roberto Galvez, the general sales manager at Henry Curtis Ford, decided to help after a former customer, Ann Sage, reached out to him with the family's story.
Sage got to know the Haspods when she and her husband were living in the same Rohnert Park hotel. They've since moved out of the hotel, but have stayed close with the family.
When the Haspods lost their van, Sage began driving their children to school. She also entered a competition for a car giveaway through the radio station Froggy 92.9 and began a letter writing campaign to nearly every car dealer in the county that she could think of, telling the Haspods' story and asking if they would donate a car.
Most wrote back offering to sell her a car, Sage said, but Galvez offered to donate one instead.
"The story itself was pretty gut-wrenching," Galvez said, but he added that Sage's request came at a good time. His dealership was participating in a pilot program with Ford designed to get staff engaged and give customers a better experience. As an incentive, dealerships that showed an increase in customer satisfaction were given funds to do something for the community.
Donating a car to the Haspods seemed like a perfect use for the money, he said.
But around the same time that Galvez told Sage he'd donate a vehicle, Sage got another pleasant surprise: she had won a vehicle for the Haspod family from G&C AutoBody through the Froggy car giveaway contest she'd entered earlier.
When she told Galvez about the other car she had won for the family, he said his dealership would still donate the family a van.
"My response was, 'hey, that's great, that car can be transportation for the father' (who works at in the deli department of Safeway in Petaluma.) But that still left the mom and four kids with no means of transportation," he said.
The dealership had just gotten a used 2005 Ford van through a trade, and it seemed like a good fit for the family. The service department employees volunteered their time to get the van in good condition, and the parts department discounted new parts for the vehicle.
Galvez also got Cal West Rentals to donate a tent for the event and began working with local companies to get donations of toys, gas cards and more.
The van was full of toys when the Haspods were presented with the keys on Saturday.
Jenny Haspod said that she was amazed to see the effort that so many people had put in on her family's behalf. The van, she said, would be a huge help in getting her children to school and the doctor. But, she said, she was most glad to see how happy her kids were.