Shea'La Woods attended the grand opening Saturday of Tide Dry Cleaners knowing that a military veteran would be receiving a free car.
She had no idea she was getting the car.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Woods, who thought she was there to go over her application for a future car in the Cars 4 Heroes program. “I'm so grateful.”
Tide Dry Cleaners and Performance Toyota-Scion partnered with Cars 4 Heroes to give Woods a completely refurbished 1999 Toyota Camry. The Tide grand opening was at 147th Street and West Maple Road.
Car recipients are selected based on need and ability to maintain the vehicle, said Terry Franz, founder of Cars 4 Heroes.
“It's really tough to not have a car,” Franz said. “Take your car keys away for a week, and see how you function.”
Woods served in the Army for five years. At first, the mother of two struggled adjusting to civilian life.
For a brief time, she was homeless.
“It's been hard, but I've done everything I could to make the best of my situation and make sure my kids know they are loved,” Woods said.
She now has a job and Omaha home.
Not having a car made it difficult for her to get son Zyionne Montgomery, 5, to school and 9-month-old son Cordero Hall to the babysitter's before getting herself to work. Woods would often spend up to four hours on the bus commuting.
“This means a lot more freedom to do things with my kids,” Woods said. “This made my day.”
Kimberley McCutcheon, general manager of Tide Dry Cleaners, said the program is a way to give back.
“We thought it was a perfect partnership,” McCutcheon said. “We're into helping the community we live and work in.”
Cars 4 Heroes has partnered with Tide grand openings at other locations before. The organization gives away about 300 cars a year.
The next Omaha event will be on Veterans Day, when six cars will be given away.
“It's very rewarding to do,” Franz said. “Sometimes you see tears, sometimes shock. But you always get a smile.”