WALLINGFORD — When Stephen Murray logged into Facebook on Monday, he received a message he deemed a Christmas miracle.
Murray was one of three town residents chosen by Joe Vertucci, owner of Vertucci Automotive, who gave away $2,000 worth of gift certificates for auto repairs. Murray, along with Greg Kenney, each received a gift certificate for $500 in auto repairs. Jen Palmer-Humowitz received a certificate for $1,000.
“I was just about ready to burst out in tears,” Murray said when he found out he was chosen. “... I was just shocked. I really thought he would’ve picked other people. We’re pretty dire, but I’m sure there are people out there that are worse off than us.”
It’s the first year Vertucci has held a giveaway, he said. Vertucci said he was motivated by the poor economy and the realization that many people are down on their luck, as well as a desire to give back to the community.
“You (have to) give back sometimes,” he said. “I was going to do just a $1,000 giveaway for service, but I didn’t think there were so many people hurting.”
The giveaway was organized to target a certain demographic — what Vertucci classifies as “the working poor.”
“The working poor that doesn’t ever qualify for anything are the ones I’m trying to help,” he explained. “The guy that can’t get ahead and has three jobs, but he’s down on his luck.”
After inviting people to submit their stories, Vertucci judged the winners based on need.
In total, he received 150 submissions, Vertucci said. “I didn’t think it was that bad for the people out there,” he said.
But Vertucci was touched by Murray’s submission, and many others. Murray had heard about the giveaway on a Facebook community forum. After experiencing a number of setbacks, Murray said his family is in “desperate need” and the gift certificate will definitely help.
A homeowner for the past 20 years, Murray said he had to move his family into an apartment after their house was foreclosed upon. His wife has also been fighting an illness for eight years and the medical bills have put the Murrays in a tough financial situation, Murray said.
In addition, Murray said his car, along with his daughter’s, are in “desperate need of work.”
“She commutes every day to New Haven for school. Her car needs a lot of work,” Murray said. “This isn’t just for me, but for my daughter as well. We wouldn’t be getting this work done if he didn’t offer this.”
Vertucci said he plans to organize more giveaways in the future, and he doesn’t plan on limiting it to gift certificates for repairs.
“The resources we have and the people I know and the companies I deal with, I think I can get a lot of people to donate throughout the year to help people out,” he said.
Murray and his family say they’re thankful to have been chosen and to be able to finally get their cars fixed to make them safe again.
“We’ve been struggling. Foreclosing on a house is the worst thing that has happened,” Murray said.
“There’s not much left at the end of the week. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”