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Friday, 19 February 2021 16:50

Local Body Shop Gives Away Car to Great Falls, MT, Veteran in Need

Written by Nicole Girten, Great Falls Tribune
Benjamin Fontana, left, hugs Flawless Body Shop owner Jeramy Myers after accepting the Honda Civic. Benjamin Fontana, left, hugs Flawless Body Shop owner Jeramy Myers after accepting the Honda Civic. Kevin Kofod

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Jeramy Myers of Flawless Auto Body Shop held back emotion as he presented a free car to a local veteran in need Feb. 16.

“When we talked about this, about a year and a half ago… it was just a dream,” Myers said. “And now, today's the day.”

 

U.S. Army and Navy veteran Benjamin Fontana, 45, beamed when he was presented with a navy 2016 Honda Civic in the shop garage. Fontana served for 10 years, first enlisting at 17 years old in the shadow of his grandfather’s service in World War II.

 

Originally from Pittsburgh, Fontana has two daughters in their 20s living in Minnesota. 

 

Fontana said it was a lot to take in but that he “absolutely” liked his new wheels and described the opportunity as an amazing honor. 

 

“What’s not to like?” Fontana said, looking inside the vehicle’s black interior. 

 

Fontana spoke to the crowd and expressed his gratitude to everyone who participated in the event, including the Malmstrom Air Force Color Guard and the C.M. Russell High School Chanteur Choir, as well as all the businesses who donated funds that went toward restoring the car. 

 

“The benefits to bridging that gap between the community in which we live and the veteran community is… That's a powerful thing,” Fontana said.

 

Several local businesses contributed, with First Interstate Bank sponsoring his first year of liability insurance and Schulte's 38th Street Store donating his first tank of gas along with a gift card, among many others. 

 

Jeanne Myers, wife to Jeramy and marketing director at Flawless, said they worked with the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program to acquire the car their team worked on from Allstate Insurance. She said the local chapter of...


... Volunteers of America Northern Rock helped select the individual who would receive the vehicle. 

 

“Recycled Rides has a very strict criteria,” Myers told the Tribune. The individual needed to be able to afford the vehicle’s maintenance, insurance and licensing so that it “wasn’t being put on them as a burden.” 

 

Recycled Rides also was looking for someone with specific personal goals.

 

“Being a veteran, down on their luck, so to speak,” Meyers said. “But was able to come back and fight strong.”

 

Brooke Cory of Volunteers for America said they chose to nominate Fontana for the program because “he needed a second chance.”

 

“When you face challenges in life, knowing that there are resources out there to help you get back on your feet is a very reassuring and powerful feeling,” Fontana said to the crowd, adding it was an unfamiliar feeling before meeting the ladies at the VOA. 

 

Fontana is a recent graduate of Veterans Treatment Court, a program established by former Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski to help military veterans come back from crime, addiction and mental illness. 

 

“You learn a lot of stuff going through Veteran’s Treatment Court and identifying psychological stressors that have presented unique challenges to my life since I was a child, and there's a lot of transition that happens with that,” Fontana told the Tribune. “Writing a new chapter in my life.”

 

Fontana is now working to turn his life around. He’s two weeks into a new construction job with Jorgensen Construction and was attending Great Falls College, but that’s on hold for now he said.  

 

“I’m still in that rebuilding phase,” Fontana said. “The opportunity that this provides adds a great measure of security to that progress.” 

 

The Recycled Rides Program has been bringing together different businesses from across the automotive industry to donate used cars to people in need since 2007. In the past 14 years, they have donated more than 2,500 cars. 

 

We thank the Great Falls Tribune for reprint permission. 

 

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