‘Angels’ rewards deserving moms with cars | SteamboatToday.com

‘Angels’ rewards deserving moms with cars

Nick Foster

The phone rang Thursday night. Krystal Diehl picked it up and began crying. She was told she had won a car.

Denise English also received a phone call Thursday night that ended in shock and disbelief because she, too, had won a car.

Diehl and English then began a series of late-night phone calls to their friends and family to let them know of their spectacular prizes from Auto Angels, a new philanthropic organization created by Steamboat Springs native Thomas Reuter Jr.

For more than a year, Reuter searched for low-mileage cars in good condition and solicited several other automotive-related businesses to donate service and improvements in an effort to keep the cars cost free for at least six months. The majority of the donations, however, came from the pockets of Reuter and his father and their business, Checkpoint Auto Sales.

“I just decided I wanted to give something back to Steamboat,” Reuter said. “I grew up here. I know how hard it can be to live here. We’ve gone through hard times ourselves.”

Reuter came up with a plan to reward people who had a need for improved transportation, and who demonstrated a willingness to give something back to the community after receiving the car. From the 17 applicants, the two winners were selected by a committee consisting of Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, Routt County Undersheriff Dan Taylor and Routt County Human Services Director Bob White.

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“It’s for deserving people in the community,” Thomas Reuter Sr. said. “Not necessarily poor or needy people, but deserving people. It’s like the movie ‘Pay it Forward.’ These people are paying it forward.”

Diehl is a 22-year-old single mother of a 3-year-old son, Quentin. She is enrolled in cosmetology school. In her essay, which each applicant was required to send in, she wrote that she would use her skills to give haircuts to the elderly at retirement homes in the area.

“This couldn’t happen to a better person,” Diehl’s mother, Kim Cox, said. “Her finances were so tight.”

Diehl said she had a car, but that she recently had to sell it because she is unemployed and needed money to support herself and her son.

“I just want to thank everyone who made this possible,” Diehl said, as she and Quentin got into the front seat of their new 2001 Daewoo Lanos sedan.

English, 36, has two children: Alexandra, 6, and Jack, 4. Jack has severe autism, and English said she needed a reliable way to transport him to Denver hospitals. Her 1991 Nissan Pathfinder was barely doing the job, English said.

“I work at a clinic, Yampa Valley Autism, here in Steamboat,” English said. “It’s nice to be the one receiving something for a change. I’ve never won anything before. I’m still shocked. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

For her return service, English said she would continue her work to help autistic children.

“I can’t believe they are actually doing this,” she said. “I want to help out with (Auto Angels) next year.”

English sat behind the steering wheel of her new 2001 Kia Rio sedan for the first time, and Alexandra jumped on her lap and smiled as she pushed hard on the horn, like a shout of joy.

Auto Angels worked to make the cars reliable and like-new. Generous donations from other organizations included new warranties, oil changes and car washes, new tires from Big-O Tires, brakes and alignment from Steamboat Brake and Alignment, certificates for $100 in free gas, and body work and other services from Doran Automotive, Russell’s Auto Salon, Bob’s Collision, NAPA Auto Parts, Elk Mountain Automotive Center, Custom Color and others.

“This is just the beginning,” Thomas Reuter Jr. said. “I hope this perpetuates from year to year.”

— To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com