NORTH PALM BEACH – Single mother Christine Kelly, a U.S. Army veteran, needed a car to drive to work so she could support her two young children.
She’d been using a rental car for about a month but needed a more permanent solution.
That’s when the not-for-profit Wheels From the Heart stepped in and made her life much easier.
The Delray Beach-based organization, founded by former car dealer Steven F. Muschlitz, partnered with best-selling author Anthony Caliendo to find Kelly a suitable vehicle. It was Wheels From the Heart’s 97th car giveaway.
On Veterans Day at the monthly Cars and Coffee Palm Beach auto show, Kelly got the keys to a 2006 champagne-colored Chrysler Town & Country Ltd. minivan. Florida Fine Cars caught up with Wheels From the Heart, Kelly and Caliendo at the car show to find out more.
“I thought it was amazing,” Kelly said, holding the keys to her shiny minivan, surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers.
Kelly’s boss had told her two days earlier that she needed to get car insurance, but Kelly wasn’t sure what was up. She found out about the minivan when she arrived.
“I thought he was messing with me because he likes to mess with me,” she said of her boss.
Muschlitz got Kelly’s name from Col. Tony Colmenares, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and community liaison. Colmenares lured Kelly to the car giveaway by telling her he was taking her to a Veteran’s Day celebration. He instructed her to wear her Army uniform for the occasion.
“She got here and was a little nervous because she saw so many are and people here,” Colmenares said of the crowd that packed the parking lot of the Palm Beach Outlets Mall. “We parked by this big truck and I said, ‘You are going to get a vehicle today.’”
Kelly, who served four years on active duty and is now in the reserves, said her family had been without a vehicle since mid-September when she went through a separation from her husband.
Charity Founded to Help Women in Need Obtain Cars
Wheels From the Heart’s goal is to help women in need “drive to a better life.”
Their website outlines the organization’s mission with a question and a statement: “What do you accomplish in your car every single day? Now consider doing it without a car.”
Muschlitz said he started the charity because he met so many women who needed help during his 15 years in the car industry. The cars his organization provides are a mix of donations and purchases.
Caliendo partnered with Wheels from the Heart to help push their donation rate over 100 cars. The business brokerage company owner got involved because the car giveaway initiative is near and dear to his heart: Caliendo was raised by a single mother and knows firsthand how tough life can be.
“My father left when I was young,” said Caliendo, who also had two siblings. “We were broke and poor. I remember three kids being stuck on the road many times with my mother’s broken-down vehicle. Now I’m helping single mothers get a vehicle or get a BETTER vehicle.
His motto: When you are blessed, become a blessing. He is also a member of the advisory board for Kids in Distress.
Kelly’s son Iyzaiah, 5, and daughter Sophia, 2, were delighted with the roomy new minivan.
Iyzaiah immediately noticed the TV in the back and wanted to turn it on.
“Where is the remote control,” he said, looking around.
He crawled into the backseat with a big grin on his face.
“My car has a sunroof and it has seven seats,” he said happily.
“It’s easy to get in and out of and the kids will have space,” Kelly said smiling.
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