Marta Moniz, left, accepts the keys to her reconditioned 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe from Auto Body Hawaii President Dale Matsumoto. Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today
Receiving the keys to a reconditioned 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe on Thursday was a bittersweet moment for Kailua-Kona resident Marta Moniz and her family.
Having recently lost her daughter, 34-year-old Neena Eliana, to colon cancer, Moniz said the vehicle donated by Auto Body Hawaii via nonprofit Kaanalike will ensure that her daughter’s three children get to school — something Moniz said Neena worried about until her death Sept. 20.
“She had three children that needed to get to school, and she was worried about that,” Moniz said about her daughter and son-in-law’s two girls, ages 16 and 13, and son, age 5. “Now, I will be able to take all my grandkids at once.”
Moniz received the sports utility vehicle on Thursday during a private ceremony held at Auto Body Hawaii in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area of North Kona. The vehicle is a reconditioned Tahoe that Tiffiny Taylor, Auto Body Hawaii vice president, said has been deemed structurally and mechanically sound.
Dale Matsumoto, company president, said Auto Body Hawaii spent about $4,000 reconditioning the vehicle. The Chevrolet, he said, had been involved in a minor accident but sustained no structural damage.
“We rarely come across larger sized vehicle we can recondition. We have ensured that the SUV is structurally and mechanically in top shape,” Taylor said. “We hope the family that receives the vehicle will make good use of it.”
Moniz said the family will make good use of the vehicle, which will replace an aging four-door Toyota Camry sedan that had become too small for her grandchildren. She also noted the Toyota had began to overheat and the brakes were squeaking.
The sheer size of the Chevy will also reduce the number of trips made each day transporting her daughter’s three children, and three other of Moniz’s grandchildren, to and from school and work. Moniz estimated she spent approximately $300 to $425 monthly on gas making multiple trips to various schools and places of employment in South and North Kona.
“Family comes first, and for my daughter, I did what I had to do,” Moniz explained, noting her employer was very gracious and understanding of the family’s situation. She also emphasized that the family is very humble and appreciative of the gift.
Kaanalike President Nalani Freitas said the nonprofit was contacted by Auto Body Hawaii to find a family in need of the vehicle that had been given to the auto repair business by its owner with the understanding it would be donated to a family in need.
The Moniz family was one of two selected for a final screening that included a family-written essay about their situation.
Following screening, Freitas said Moniz was identified and determined able to supply no-fault motor vehicle insurance.
“Whatever vehicles we have, we collaborate and get them out to where the need is,” she said about the organization’s vehicle donation. “It’s one of those things that just worked out.”
Since 1998, the organization has provided everything from furniture and appliances to clothing and food for families needing a little extra help.
Volunteers work year-round collecting items, including a vehicle or two, and delivering them to needy clients throughout West Hawaii, Freitas said.
The 501(c)(3) operates on an annual budget between $7,000 and $8,000. Though unable to provide the exact number of clients assisted this year, she said the requests for Kaanalike services has increased by 30 percent over 2011.