YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Yorktown Auto Body gave away five cars to individuals in need on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The winners were announced and drove away in their cars after attending a celebration held its Front Street shop.
The owner, Perry Gusikoff, and his business partner, Carlos Fernandez, wanted to give back to the Yorktown community by helping five individuals whose lives would improve because of the donation.
“It’s about the community coming together and helping everybody out, that’s what Yorktown’s about. I’m glad that we can extend that to other people,” Gusikoff said at the celebration.
Yorktown Auto Body bought, repaired, and refurbished all five cars and have been working on the giveaway for the past five months, Gusikoff said.
Individuals from the community came forward to lend a helping hand as well, with some contributing parts and paint, Fernandez said. Anonymous cash donations were given to the shop to pay for registration fees for all five vehicles and the new owners were each given a $250 gas card along with their cars.
“It’s something nice for the community. You always have to give back something; it’s the right thing to do,” Fernandez said.
The winners—Bobby Caroline, Julie Marotta, Eric Lemus, Jose Andrino and Diego Ortiz—are all Yorktown residents who were nominated by someone close to them and selected by a committee made up of five Yorktown officials and business owners.
On the committee were Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli; Councilwoman Alice Roker; Mike Dubovsky, owner of Hanover Electric; Town Comptroller Pat Caporale; and Bruce Apar, a community organizer.
Bobby Caroline, who is currently in the seminary, was nominated by his aunt and uncle, Jim Caroline.
Caroline’s father suffered a massive stroke this past year and his car kept breaking down on the drives to see his father in the hospital.
“It’s a real godsend. I’m just very grateful for Perry and the Yorktown Auto Body shop and the panel for picking me,” Caroline said. “There’s just a deep sense of gratitude. Really words can’t express it enough.”
Julie Marotta is a mother of two and a breast cancer survivor of three years. She was nominated by family friends, Steve and Kathy Desiderio. She works part-time at Hudson Valley Hospital, in addition to taking care of her boys, the youngest of which has special needs.
“I’m so blessed and grateful for this opportunity, it’s amazing. This is just an amazing opportunity that Yorktown Auto Body gave everybody,” Marotta said.
Eric Lemus was left nearly speechless, and he said has been since he received a phone call letting him know he would be given a free car.
Lemus’ boss, Shawn Brattner, nominated the college student, who commutes from Binghampton University to Yorktown on weekends and holidays to work. Brattner, who has known Lemus and his family for 17 years, said the student is hard-working and nominated him to receive a car so he doesn’t have to rely on public transportation and ride-shares.
“It’s still unreal,” Lemus said. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Jose Andrino, a student and previous town court intern, was nominated by two town judges, Sal Lagonia and Gary Raniolo, Yorktown Police Chief Robert Noble and Andrino’s neighbor.
“I would hear the stories about the car breaking down and how much that would impact him,” Lagonia said at the ceremony.
Andrino, whose goal is to become a law enforcement officer, is currently attending Westchester Community College, studying criminal justice. He plans to then transfer to John Jay College and, after that, attend the Westchester Police Academy.
“This is a true blessing for me,” Andrino said. “In the future I hope I can pay this back when I become a law enforcement officer.”
Diego Ortiz, a disabled veteran who has multiple sclerosis, was nominated by his wife, Charlene Ruiz-Ortiz.
After the family bought a house in Yorktown, the family fell on hard times. They were hit by two nor’easters and Ortiz’s M.S. flare-ups started getting progressively worse. Due to expenses and tax collections, the couple, who share two sons, sold their second car and Ruiz-Ortiz’s wedding rings to help catch up on finances.
After taking so many hits, the Ortiz family is experiencing a win.
“I feel great. I really don’t win too many things,” Ortiz said. “I appreciate it and everybody thanks me for my service but I want to thank everybody for choosing me as well as the other recipients.”
Gusikoff said that he hopes his act of charity will inspire others to be more charitable.
“This is a very emotional thing for a lot of people here,” said Gusikoff. “Hopefully we made a positive impact on their life somehow, that’s what we were trying to do.”