CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two deserving area residents became car owners as part of Thornhill Auto Group's second "Christmas in July" celebration.
Clay Norris of Charleston and Kathy Martin of Henlawson both received cars after their friends dropped off letters nominating them for the event's car giveaway program.
Thornhill marketing director Mike Collins said dealership owner Wally Thornhill came up with the giveaway idea last year.
"The whole idea of it came about from knowing there are people in our community who are in need, who can't afford to buy a car but desperately need transportation," Collins said.
"We set it up to where people could write letters for someone else nominating them to be selected as one of the winners that get one of the vehicles," he said.
A panel of community members reviewed the letters and selected the best candidates.
Collins said he didn't like calling the event a contest or competition, because he was truly about helping someone in need.
He said last year the dealership gave away one car. This year, officials tried to expand the program to two cars.
"Mr. Thornhill and the rest of the group decided to do two because it really was just a blessing to get to see a person who really had a need get something like that," Collins said.
The company opened up the nomination period at the beginning of July and advertised the initiative in their print and radio ads.
Renee Daly heard one of the radio ads on her way to work one morning.
Daly, the Newspapers-in-Education program coordinator for Charleston Newspapers, said she thought Norris would be a good nominee.
Norris, who turns 58 next month, used to drive a truck from his home on Charleston's West Side to the Charleston Newspapers office on Virginia Street, where he works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift with the company's custodial staff.
But when Norris's truck broke down a couple years ago, he switched to commuting on a bike. However, a thief stole his bike earlier this year. Norris either walked or used a KRT bus ever since.
Despite the setbacks, Daly said Norris always kept a positive attitude at work.
"He's just very friendly and always willing to help anybody," she said. "He's just always in a good mood."
She said he always shows up to work on time, except on snowy days when he comes in an hour early to clear the sidewalks around the office.
But Daly said her heart broke when she asked Norris about his Christmas plans last year. He said his one wish was that he could visit his stepdaughter in Morgantown and mother in Washington., but couldn't because he didn't have a car.