Utah County woman surprised with car just in time for Christmas

Dec 22, 2021, 9:07 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2021, 11:13 am

SPANISH FORK, Utah — With winter weather taking a toll on cars, auto shops have been particularly busy this time of year.

However, that didn’t mean that workers at Dickerson Automotive didn’t have the time Wednesday to provide an extra special service for a stranger.

Owner Todd Dickerson had made the “Wheels with Heart Program” a tradition, and this holiday season he and his shop had been looking to gift a refurbished car to someone in need.

“It needed an engine and a few other things to make that a reality, but we also received some small donations and some fairly sizable ones,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson said people submitted short essays through the Wheels with Heart part of the Dickerson Automotive website.

Through that site, Scott Chamberlain, executive director of Legacy House Spanish Fork nominated Janis Cooper, an employee who collided with a deer during her commute earlier in the year.

“Janis Cooper has been a huge part of my life the last seven years,” Chamberlain said. “She’s a caregiver at Legacy House in Spanish Fork and has dedicated her life to taking care of the elderly and she drives over 30 miles each day to and from work and is so selfless and very deserving of a gift like this.”

Dickerson agreed, and soon a plan was hatched to surprise Cooper outside the Dickerson Automotive storefront.

“The team did really good about taking her out to lunch, having a cover story of ‘hey, we need to swing by the auto shop to pick something up,’ and she was totally surprised,” Chamberlain said.

When coworkers drove Cooper up to the shop, Dickerson greeted her out front.

She was surprised he knew her name.

“A little bird kind of told me a little story about your transportation woes and how you could use some better transportation and what a great asset you are to Legacy House and all the people that you help,” Dickerson explained to her as he pointed. “This is your new car!”

The look on Cooper’s face immediately changed. She clutched at her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes.

“It’s not new but it’s pretty alright!” Dickerson added as those standing and watching began to applaud.

“Merry Christmas!” someone shouted.

Cooper was beside herself.

“Thank you!” she exclaimed. “It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me!”

Chamberlain also beamed.

“No one (is) more deserving than Janis for a gift like this,” he said.

Dickerson said the Wheels with Heart Program encompasses more than car giveaways.

“It’s more of a program where someone is down on their luck — let’s say they have some medical bills or they haven’t been working for a few weeks and they’re having car problems and they’ve got to get their car fixed — it’s a lot easier for us to help people that are really in need with their current vehicles and smaller-type repairs than it is to acquire an entire vehicle, but we do try to do that because we know there’s a need for that as well.”

He said he was grateful that he and his shop were able to make some difference for Cooper.

“This is Christmas, this is what Christmas is all about and every time we do this time of year, it’s my favorite day of the year,” Dickerson smiled. “Just being able to give back to a community that’s given so much to me and my employees just warms my heart.”

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