The gift of independence: Two veteran families gifted cars this holiday season

Local News

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — ‘Tis the season to give — and give back.

On Tuesday, with exactly three weeks until Christmas, two Virginia families got a gift without a price tag: a car.

The cars were both wrapped in bows — just like in those holiday commercials.

This holiday season, these two veteran families gain the gift of independence.

“Reliable transportation is something that many of us take for granted but its something that’s so necessary,” said Ashley Ray with ‘Soldiers’ Angels,’ a non-profit that supports veterans and men and women in uniform.

One of the car recipients served 14 years in the Army. He says a shiny red Toyota is a gift that will keep on giving to his family.

“The long commutes that I used to have on public transportation, I can eliminate that right now,” said Joey Burrell of Hampton, Va. 

The car donations were possible because of a little magic from Richmond-area GEICO and Caliber Collision elves.

GEICO donated the two cars, while Caliber Collision restored them to working condition. This effort is part of the National Auto Body Council’s ‘Recycled Rides’ program.

“Technicians, estimators, center managers, all those folks have donated well over 100 hours of their time to restore both of these vehicles,” said a representative from Caliber Collision.

Che and Jerri Griffin were nearly in shock when they saw a slate-colored SUV waiting for them Wednesday.

Both spouses served in the military and say they have relied on Uber to get around recently.

“We had a vehicle that was working that went down,” said Che Griffin, a Navy veteran from Hampton.

“Ya know economy the way things are — made it hard for us.”

Now the Griffin family is overjoyed with a Dodge SUV. They told 8News they’re most excited to have a car big enough to fit the whole family. 

“I don’t know where we’d be right now,” said Griffin. “We’d probably still be waiting at home for a blessing to come by.”

Both the Burrell and Griffin families were nominated for the “Recycled Rides” program by ‘Soldiers’ Angels.’

“A lot of people had a hand in this and made it work and I’m really thankful for that,” said Griffin.

Burrell smiled from ear-to-ear as he checked out his new ride Wednesday.

“That’s what I’m thankful for the most,” he said. ‘That people are looking out for all of us.”

Caliber Collision says since this program began, it’s given reliable transportation to more than 300 people in need.

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