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Samaritan Car Care Clinic fixed up 20-year-old car to give new hope to Northern Kentucky mom

'To her it was like a brand new car'
A woman stands near an open back door of a silver 2000 Toyota Avalon that she received from Samaritan Car Care Clinic. The woman's face is blurred to protect her privacy.
Posted at 7:00 AM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 18:25:53-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — Barbara Fleckenstein called her beloved car Sadie.

The 2000 Toyota Avalon was “a good old girl,” Fleckenstein said, and was hard to give up. Sadie sat in the driveway of Fleckenstein's Monfort Heights home for months after a newer vehicle had taken her place.

Then Fleckenstein saw a WCPO 9 news report about Samaritan Car Care Clinic in Covington.

RELATED: Samaritan Car Care Clinic helps people with drive to succeed

“At that time, he said that cars were being donated to needy families that didn’t have transportation,” Fleckenstein said. “I’ve donated cars before and never knew what happened to them. So this kind of inspired me, I guess, to help out someone who needed a vehicle.”

Barbara Fleckenstein smiles in this undated photo. She is seated on a bench. She has dark, shoulder-length hair and is wearing a white, floral print dress.
Barbara Fleckenstein

She contacted Bruce Kintner, the clinic’s volunteer director, who visited with a clinic volunteer on a rainy January day to check out the vehicle.

“We were very, very fortunate,” Kintner said. “The car definitely had life left.”

Fleckenstein said goodbye to Sadie, and Kintner used financial donations to give the car new tires, brakes and a battery.

Finding a new home for the car didn’t take long.

Tonya Slone, Campbell County Middle School’s Youth Service Center coordinator, knew a local mom in desperate need of a car.

Volunteer Mike Truman helps clean a donated 2000 Toyota Avalon for Samaritan Car Care Clinic. Truman is wearing a mask and gloves while wiping down the driver's seat.
Samaritan Car Care Clinic Mike Truman helps clean the donated 2000 Toyota Avalon.

“I had a family that had been hit by the pandemic and lost a job, and it was just very difficult,” Slone said. “Their car broke down, and it really was not able to be repaired.”

The mom has a son who’s a student at Campbell County Middle School, and Slone noticed that she kept showing up at school in different cars. The mom explained she was borrowing cars from other people to meet the needs of her three children.

Slone, who is friends with Kintner, connected her with Samaritan Car Care Clinic, and the clinic gave her Sadie. Slone wasn’t there the day the mom got the car but saw her soon after.

“She came over the very next day to the school and wanted me to come out and see it,” Slone said. “She showed it all off, opened up all the doors and just was so happy.”

‘A timely blessing’

The mom didn’t want to be interviewed for this story, but she wrote a letter about her experience that Slone read for WCPO 9. It said:

Dear little car clinic,

The pandemic was very rough on my family, and I didn’t have a car. When you stepped in to help us, all I could do was cry.

So I wanted to say a big thank you to the family that donated the beautiful Avalon car to me this past winter. I was so proud to have such a nice car. It really helped me out and was a timely blessing.

Our kids were going to school virtually. But when they went back to school full time, I especially needed the car to get them if they were sick or to take them to school if we were running late and they missed the bus, etc.

And to Bruce, I’m especially grateful because you made this happen. The little car clinic also made sure the car was safe to drive, and that’s so important to me. I can’t say enough – or say thank you enough – and I hope that I can pay it forward one day myself. Blessings to all.

Slone said she noticed the 20-year-old car’s high mileage the first time she saw it, but the mom said the mileage didn’t seem too high to her at all.

Tonya Slone smiles for this undated photo near Campbell County Middle School's Youth Service Center.
Tonya Slone

“She made a comment that, you know, it had leather seats, and it was just such a nice vehicle,” Slone said. “Better than anything she’s ever had. So to her it was like a brand new car.”

Fleckenstein said as difficult as it was to give up Sadie, she’s pleased with how things turned out.

“I was just very happy that I knew that it was going to a good home,” she said. “That she was going to a good home, and someone would be able to benefit for, hopefully, a few more years of use.”

Samaritan Car Care Clinic was overwhelmed with requests for help after WCPO 9’s January story, Kintner said. The small ministry was grateful to receive help, too, in the form of the donated car, he said, and he hopes that more people will be inspired to help by donating cars or cash to the clinic.

Kintner is working to create a standalone, nonprofit mechanic shop that can provide low-cost car maintenance and services to people in need. He has raised about 75% of the funding necessary to make that happen, he said, so the clinic can fulfill its mission and help even more people.

“It’s a hand up,” Kintner said, “trying to help people stay on that path towards self-sufficiency.”

A child sits buckled into a car seat in the back of a 2000 Toyota Avalon. The child's face is blurred for privacy.
A child sits buckled into a car seat in the back of the 2000 Toyota Avalon donated by Barbara Fleckenstein. The child's face is blurred for privacy.

Samaritan Car Care Clinic recently became an independent nonprofit organization but doesn’t have a website of its own. Additional information can be found on Madison Avenue Christian Church’s website. Donations can be made in the form of a check payable to Samaritan Car Care Clinic mailed to 1530 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky. 41011.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.