Monday, 17 November 2014 16:00

MI Army vet grateful for car donation

In November 2013, U.S. Army veteran Amy O’Neil was involved in an accident that totaled the car she was driving and left her without transportation ever since.

Her inability to replace the vehicle made it tough to get to her job at the Veteran’s hospital in Ann Arbor.

In a ceremony at the Progressive Insurance office in Livonia on November 11, the Jack Demmer Automotive Group and Progessive Insurance joined forces to help her out, donating a refurbished 2005 Ford Escape to O’Neil, a Saline resident and a member of the Plymouth VFW.

“I really appreciate this,” said O’Neil, who joined the U.S. Army in 1998 at the age of 20. “I’ve had trouble getting to work ... This is the best thing anyone could ever give to me.”

When O’Neil’s original enlistment was up in 2002, she decided she hadn’t done enough, and signed up for a stint in the Army Reserves. Her unit was activated in January 2003, and by April, O’Neil was in Iraq. After her tour was up, O’Neil was discharged in November 2003.

When officials at Demmer and at Progressive were looking for a veteran to honor, Plymouth VFW officials recommended O’Neil. Demmer partnered with Progressive, the National Auto Body Council, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and several other organizations.

With parts donated from vendors, the staff at Jack Demmer Collision Centers repaired and refurbished the Escape for O’Neil, one of more than 100 veterans across the country who will receive a special vehicle on Veteran’s Day through Progressive’s “Recycled Rides” project.

“Amy’s new job made her a perfect candidate,” for the program, said project coordinator Tommy Ryan of Progressive. “We’re hoping to make a difference in a lot of lives today.”

Enterprise Rent-A-Car provided O’Neil with six months’ worth of free auto insurance. Regional vice president Vincent LaBella pointed out that some 10 percent of Enterprise employees are veterans and Reservists. That, LaBella said, makes the company’s participation in the program special.

“We get to give back to our communities, and we get to honor our veterans,” LaBella said. “It’s really important for us to give back to (O’Neil) for what she has done.”

The Demmer family also has a military history. Patriarch Jack Demmer is a World War II veteran, and Jim Demmer, who spoke at the ceremony, has a son, C.J., who is in the U.S. Marines.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ to all those who put their lives on the line for our country,” Demmer said. “We never take that for granted.”