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Bristol Businessmen Donate Used Car to a Student in Need

Post Date:05/11/2017 12:31 PM

A Virginia Highlands Community College student got the surprise of her life Thursday afternoon when three Bristol businessmen presented her with a used vehicle that is in “tip-top shape” and ready for her frequent commutes to campus.

Bristol businessman Bobby Griffin spearheaded the surprise soon after he met Jessica Akerboom, a VHCC student who is enrolled in the Nurse Aide program. A single mother of two, Jessica also works part-time as a caregiver for the elderly. When she first met Griffin and he asked about the obstacles she is facing, she explained that her old car – which has nearly 300,000 miles on it and is being held together with zip ties – is constantly breaking down.

“She told me transportation was her greatest need,’” said Griffin, a longtime advocate for students who serves on the VHCC Educational Foundation Board. “I started thinking about what I could do and decided to give her this van, no strings attached, as a gift.”

The 1996 Chrysler van belonged to Griffin’s late wife. He sold it twice, then bought it back for sentimental reasons. When he met Jessica, he knew exactly what he should do.

“This is what my wife would have wanted,” he said.

Before giving Jessica the keys, Griffin took the van to his friend Mitch Walters, owner of Friendship Automotive, and asked him to make sure it was in good condition. Mechanics at Friendship’s Chrysler dealership donated a series of service and repairs valued at about $2,000 before declaring the car was ready for the road.

“They went over the whole thing and got it in tip-top shape,” Griffin said. “Everything is in perfect working order.”

When Griffin shared the story with his good friend Hyte Crowder, he was also eager to help. He contributed another $1,500 to cover incidental costs.

“All three of us came together to make this happen,” Griffin said. “We all wanted to help.”

With help from her VHCC counselor, Laura Maxwell, the three businessmen - Griffin, Walters and Crowder - lured Jessica to Friendship's corporate office on Thursday and presented her with the keys to the van.

"It's got a full tank of gas," Griffin told her. "You're ready to go."

A teary-eyed Jessica thanked those who contributed to the gift and everyone who has supported her since she enrolled.

"I don't even have words right now," she said.


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