Community Outreach puts West View family in new car
For the past three years, Danielle Bucciero hasn’t been able to think much about anything but caring for her son, Santino.
Born with Pierre Robin syndrome, the boy had an underdeveloped jaw that caused his tongue to obstruct his airway as well as a cleft palate that required frequent doctor visits, multiple surgeries, speech therapy and special feeding procedures to correct.
“Until recently, I really could only work part-time near my home because I needed to be around to care for my son,” said Bucciero, 27, of West View. “But now that he’s doing so much better, I was able to finally get a full-time job as a hairdresser, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
However, commuting to her new job at the Sports Clips Haircuts salon in Ross proved difficult because Bucciero didn’t have access to a vehicle.
Bucciero said her manager at the salon, Ashley Ewing, who also lives in West View, helped by scheduling Bucciero’s hours so she could drive her to and from work.
“It was a wonderful thing she was willing to do, but I know it isn’t always possible for our schedules to match up,” Bucciero said, adding she still had to arrange rides to other locations.
Bucciero’s transportation problems eased after her mother, Christine O’Brien Bucciero, saw a notice about the eighth annual North Hills Community Outreach Too Big for the Stocking car giveaway for people in need.
Two weeks after Bucciero landed her job, the nonprofit selected her to receive a package valued at more than $9,000 that includes a 2008 Chevy Impala with new inspection and emissions stickers, fresh detailing, an oil change, a two-year warranty, monthly gas cards, a one-year AAA Plus membership, a child car-safety seat and holiday gifts for her son.
“When I went to the link my mom sent me to, so I could fill out the application, I saw that they have a program where they sell cars pretty cheap,” she said. “So I thought maybe I could save up and buy one of those. But I never expected that I would actually win one.”
Bucciero learned that of the 40 eligible applications NHCO received, hers was among the top five being considered.
Still, “I figured it would go to someone else,” she said. “I was shocked when they called to tell me I won the car. I was with a group of people and we all started crying. I’m so thankful.”
To qualify applicants must, among other things, have an income below federal poverty guidelines, work at least 25 hours a week, have dependent children living in their home and demonstrate a need for a vehicle to commute to work, for grocery shopping and to get children to school, day care and appointments.
Applicants also were asked to write essays about how a vehicle would help improve their lives.
“Getting and keeping a decent paying job often requires having reliable transportation,” said Robb Montgomery, who manages NHCO’s Community Auto program. “While public transportation is available to some people, there are many parts of Allegheny and the surrounding counties that are not served.”
In addition to helping people move from dependency to self sufficiency through work, a vehicle can help create stability and reduce stress for a family by providing a way for parents to help their children participate in after-school and social activities, Montgomery said.
Bucciero, through her application, “showed us that despite the problems she was facing, she continued to work to improve herself,” Montgomery said. “She went out and got a job and tried to do the best she could. We felt giving her the car could help accelerate the drive she has to do better.”
Bucciero said she only obtained her driver’s license this fall and the Chevy is the first car she has owned.
“This has been such an awesome experience,” she said. “Hopefully I will be able to get my feet back on the ground to the point where I can donate this car back to the organization so they can help somebody else.”
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or [email protected].