December 15, 2022 by HCDE Communications
The holiday spirit came early—and on wheels—for two Harris County Department of Education Head Start moms this week.
Crystal Rios and Jasmine Delce, who were both Head Start students themselves, were each presented with a rehabbed vehicle packed with wrapped presents for their children as part of Bates Collision Centers and HCDE’s Head Start’s 24th Annual Responsible Parenting Award.
The women, nominated by Head Start staff where their children are enrolled, were presented with cars No. 43 and 44 on Wednesday and Thursday. They were chosen as winners by employees at each Bates Collision Center, who reviewed their nominations.
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 vehicles.
For some Bates employees, selecting a winner is personal.
“This year, one of our employees, Natalie, really went to bat for Crystal,” said Bates Collision Centers co-owner Lee Bates. “She is a single mom of three kids herself and really understood what it meant to be a single mom without transportation. It’s tough deciding who should receive the cars, and we spend a lot of time reading the nominations and discussing who should win.”
Shop owners Lee and Leila Bates have prioritized this annual giveaway because they recognize the sacrifices parents often make to provide for their children.
“This is something that will help get them to the next level. It’s not just a handout,” said Bates.
Rios, a twenty-two-year-old single mother of two, has been working hard to rebuild her life after ending an abusive relationship that culminated in a major car accident in which she sustained serious injuries.
Left without transportation, Rios relied on rides from friends and family to actively participate in the school lives of her children, Jordan and Aubrie, at Baytown Head Start—the same center where she was a student—while working towards a cosmetology certification from Lee College. Rios graduated on Saturday, December 10, and has already been awarded a promotion at work.
“It’s been a struggle taking the kids to the park, going to work, getting to school, getting the kids to school. I had a car, and in the blink of an eye, my car was gone,” said Rios. “Now I won’t have to struggle to find a way to get to work. I’m still in shock and don’t believe I’m getting a car.”
The gift of transportation, a 2012 Ford Escape, will allow Rios to expand her earning potential, take her daughter to speech therapy, and overcome her past trauma.
“My mom had to struggle with me,” she said. “I had to borrow her car to do everything, so she can finally get her car back, too.”
Two separate, back-to-back car crashes also left thirty-three-year-old Delce without a vehicle.
For the past two years, Delce has relied on ride-sharing apps, public transportation, and family and friends to get her kids to school and herself to work. A lack of transportation has also forced Delce to quit or turn down jobs she has earned, limiting opportunities to support her family.
“I’m so grateful. I won’t have to Uber anymore and waste all that money,” said Delce. “It means so much to my family and me to be able to move around.”
Delce, whose son Tyler attends Compton Head Start, is an engaged mother who takes her kids to church and her 11-year-old daughter Sha’Liya to cheer practice, all while working nights and weekends as a patient care assistant for a home healthcare company.
Having her own vehicle, a 2010 Hyundai Elantra, will enable Delce to make additional income through gig jobs like grocery and package delivery services.
“I’ll actually be able to go to school functions,” she said. “I won’t have to miss them! I’ll be able to go to doctor’s appointments without having to catch the bus.”
She’ll also be able to be a more active participant in her children’s education.
“Being an involved Head Start parent means a lot to me. Anytime that I can have an impact on my child or others, I want to be involved,” said Delce. “My son is non-verbal, but since he’s been going to Head Start, he’s been saying a lot more words—a lot more! He enjoys school.”
“It opens me up to so many job opportunities,” said Delce. “It’s an amazing Christmas gift, and I’m so thankful.”