December 14, 2021 by HCDE-Texas
Next week, two deserving Head Start moms will be gifted an essential to daily life in Harris County: a car.
In its 23rd year, HCDE Head Start, in partnership with Bates Collision Centers, will be giving cars No. 41 and 42 to Destini Rhodes and Alionuska Montalvo Perez, who will be recognized with the Bates Responsible Parenting Award. Rhodes and Montalvo were nominated by Head Start staff.
Shop owners Lee and Leila Bates have made this annual giveaway a priority because they recognize the sacrifices parents often make to provide for their children.
“Transportation is life-changing, whether you have it or you don’t, and people want to help people that are helping themselves,” said Leila Bates. “This program doesn’t just focus on their needs; it focuses on their desire to go beyond.”
Throughout the year, the Bateses search for salvaged or donated vehicles that can be fixed up and given to deserving parents during the holiday season. Bates employees donate their time and skills to work on the cars and help fill them with gifts. Other community members and businesses donate gas, insurance, and materials needed to rehab the cars.
Twenty-eight-year-old Rhodes, a single mom of three, Serina, 12, Jo’el, 4, and Sofia, 3, is a full-time student and teaching assistant at Sheffield Head Start, says transportation is everything to her.
“Without it, I can’t take my kids to school nor get to work or anywhere else,” said Rhodes. “It’s just me and my kids, and I don’t have family that can give us a ride, especially to four different places in the morning and afternoon. Receiving this vehicle will take a lot of weight and stress from me because everything I do daily is already enough to go through.”
Rhodes currently relies on a vehicle that is loaned to her. She will graduate with an associate’s degree in early childhood education in May. After graduation, she hopes to go to a university and major in special education. Her son’s autism diagnosis inspired her journey into the education field.
Alionuska Montalvo Perez is a Cuban immigrant who arrived in Texas five years ago. Like many immigrants, Montalvo Perez came in search of a better life for her family and is mother to Adianet, 19, and Jencarlos, 3, who attends Pugh Head Start. Though she is currently employed as a cleaning lady at the City of Houston Bob Lanier Public Works Building downtown, she is a certified phlebotomist, but her inability to speak English is a barrier to higher employment. Montalvo Perez relies on public transportation but hopes that a car would allow her to participate in her son’s school activities and spend time with him at the park and the zoo.
Rhodes will unwrap her mystery vehicle at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Bates Collision Center in Channelview (15532 E. Freeway Service Road, Channelview, TX 77530). Montalvo Perez will be presented with her mystery vehicle at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 17, at the Bates Collision Center in Baytown (3219 N. Main St., Baytown, TX 77521).