Happy miles ahead

by: Jaime Valdez, GIFT ON WHEELS — Beaverton Ford Manager Tym Barker hands over the keys of a Ford Taurus to Debbie, a former foster care provider.

Beaverton Ford granted a special Christmas wish for one deserving family - a free 1994 Ford Taurus limited wagon complete with new brakes, tires and a compact disc player.

'I'm still in shock, I can't believe it,' said Debbie, a Hillsboro grandmother who served as a foster parent for 18 children in a span of five years. 'It's like I'm dreaming.'

Her daughter Jennifer and 9-year-old granddaughter Ashley agreed.

'It didn't seem real until we actually got here,' Jennifer said. 'The car is really awesome.

'I still feel like I'm in a dream world. This is the best thing that's ever happened.'

Ashley nodded her head and added, 'It's amazing. We needed a new car and what do you know, one of our friends put our name in and we won.'

Robin, a Rock Creek mother who also asked to not have her last name printed, nominated Debbie and Jennifer for Beaverton Ford's annual needy family car giveaway.

'They have helped (the Department of Human Services) and foster kids by giving them a loving home, feeding them, teaching them and giving so much of themselves to these kids that have come into their home,' Robin wrote in her nomination letter. 'These two wonderful ladies share a very, very old minivan, and they have been trying to get $800 to $600 out of it to go towards buying something newer and more dependable with better gas mileage costs.

'They are the most loving and never-expect-anything-in-return kind of people I have ever met in my life.'

As foster parents, they also nurtured a baby girl for 2½ years who two years ago Robin's family adopted.

'It's kind of been one miracle after another with us,' Robin said as she watched her 4-year-old daughter climb in the driver's seat of the Taurus with her former foster mother Saturday.

'I just think this car will be the beginning of really wonderful things for them,' she added. 'It's so uplifting for their hearts to be recognized like this for all the work they have done with little kids and the community. They deserve something like this because they've made a difference in a lot of kids' lives.

'I believe in miracles. This is another blessing. It's proof that everything is put together for a reason.'

Holiday tradition

About five years ago, a Beaverton Ford customer traded in a car and requested that the dealership find a needy family to donate it to rather than providing the customary cash credit.

'We thought it was such a great idea that we've donated a car every year since,' said Tym Barker, manager of the Beaverton dealership.

Each year, the dealership sends out notices for the car giveaway to churches, service groups and other businesses, asking for recommendations of deserving families in need of a new set of dependable wheels.

Kirsten Sandberg, a Nike employee, was one of the recipients of the notice and asked her friend Robin if she knew of a family that would benefit from a car.

Robin knew just the family and emailed a nomination letter.

After reviewing more than 400 submitted recommendations, the Ford team narrowed the candidates down to first 20, then four and finally to their No. 1 choice.

'I think we made the right decision,' Barker said. 'We were mainly looking for people trying to help themselves to get out of a difficult situation.

'What impressed us about Debbie and Jennifer was that they have opened their home to foster kids for several years and donated all their time and money to support those children.'

The family also impressed him Saturday when Debbie shared her plan to donate the old minivan she put more than 200,000 miles on to another family she knows with no car.

'We want to pay it forward,' Debbie said.

'I think that's great,' Barker said.

As Michael Kasper, 2007 Salesman of the Year for the dealership, helped Debbie and Jennifer with paperwork to transfer the Taurus' title, he shared his thoughts on the early Christmas present.

'It's wonderful to help someone out who really needs it and loves the car,' Kasper said.

'It's in great condition,' Barker added. 'I'm sure they will get lots of happy miles out of it.'