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Dealership Aids Victim of Vandalism

Cheboygan County Budget Auto sold a minivan to a woman for $1 this month, but the dealership made a huge profit in goodwill.

The sale was the happy ending for a customer who lost her previous car to an act of vandalism.


Cristina Earls, a local woman, was a victim of vandalism when four young men tipped over her 1998 Dodge Neon overnight, leaving it totaled.


The mother of four was stuck without a vehicle, unable to afford another one.


Workers at the Wisconsin used-car store, part of the Van Horn Automotive Group, heard about the incident on the news and suggested the dealership help the woman out.


Tina Murphy, the store's customer relations manager, said when store owners heard Earls was a leukemia survivor on disability, they decided to provide her with a vehicle.


The Van Horn family has been in the car business since the 1960s, Murphy said. The children of the store's founder run several franchises and the used-car store.
Store officials visited Earls at her home to tell her about the offer.


"We gave her a choice among three vehicles," Murphy said. "A 2003 Pontiac Montana, a 2002 Oldsmobile Silhouette or a 2005 Dodge Neon.


"She really liked the Neon, but felt the minivan was more practical for her situation."


The dealership sold her the vehicle for $1 so Earls wouldn't have to pay state taxes.


Earls also got help from a local insurance agent which provided her with a year's worth of liability coverage for free, Murphy said.


Word spread quickly about the dealership's good deed.


"Feedback has been tremendous," Murphy said. "We've gotten a lot of responses on our social media sites."


The dealership has heard from previous customers and others who promise to be future customers after hearing the news.


Local news organizations have called and run stories and CBS News even contacted the dealership about a potential story.


Murphy said a man called from New Jersey saying he heard about the story on the news. The caller checked to make sure the store ships cars nationally - it does - and said he would buy his next vehicle from the store.