ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Lisa Vasquez couldn’t stop smiling as she made turns in the church parking lot. She has been behind the wheel of the silver two-door sedan for a week now.
“It is a 2011 Kia Forte,” she said. “I love this car. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not just my car. It’s I Love St. Pete’s car.”
I Love St. Pete is the Facebook page that made her new ride possible. Vasquez has been a member of the Facebook group for a few years and has bonded with the page’s originator, Stan Arthur.
“It took me six years to get to 5,000 members and between 2015 and 2020, I’ve gained another 50,000,” he said.
Arthur decided to try something he rarely does on his page – post a fundraiser. He heard about Lisa’s tough times in recent months. A bad check sunk her business. She lost her job, her house, and had her car repossessed despite making payments through March. A family member wasn’t relaying the money, and Vasquez lost her ride.
To make matters worse, her job as a sales rep for Captain Rusty’s Seafood required her to drive. She got a loaner car for company work but had to pay for all the gas. She was losing money by working.
Arthur wanted to help.
“I decided to take chance when it came to Lisa because I know what kind of life she’s had,” said Arthur. “Within a week, we had raised $3,000, enough for her to get a car.”
On Saturday, the two went down to Creel Motors on 66th street and picked up her new car. They posed for a photo which, of course, ended up on the I Love St. Pete page. The comments reminded Arthur of why he started the group over a decade ago.
“I was absolutely floored by how the community and the group came together. It went way beyond my wildest expectations.”
For Lisa, it was a blessing to lose her first car. It opened the door for her to see the generosity of her community.
“It was like I was still dreaming. I still can’t believe total strangers want to help me,” she said. “It just makes me smile from ear to ear.”
Arthur is exploring ways to try to do more fundraisers to help people get cars in St. Pete.