A Ford dealership in El Paso, Texas, made free repairs to an Escape belonging to a man whose wife was among 22 people shot to death at a nearby Walmart store this month.
Then, after someone stole and crashed the vehicle the day after his wife's funeral, the dealership gave Antonio Basco a new Escape to replace it. Casa Ford-Lincoln made sure the new Escape was blue — just like the one Basco's wife, Margie Reckard, had driven.
"We knew how much he loved Ford and how much that vehicle meant to him as a reminder of Margie," Ronnie Lowenfield, who co-owns the dealership with two brothers, told Automotive News. "It worked out perfect. … When I was giving him a hug, he just kept saying, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' I think he really felt the love of our people."
Lowenfield said staff members from the dealership met Basco at a memorial for the victims and learned that his Escape needed repairs. Without telling the Lowenfield brothers, staffers covered the cost of replacing the air-conditioning system, tires, brakes and a few other items.
"It was really beautiful to see our employees do that," Ronnie Lowenfield said.
More than 3,000 people attended Reckard's funeral last week after Basco, 61, invited the public to attend because he had no family in the area, El Paso TV station KVIA reported.
But the next day, the vehicle was stolen from Basco's home and found smashed.
On Sunday, Casa Ford-Lincoln posted on its Facebook page that the dealership had heard about the theft and was working on a way to help Basco. Lowenfield said he looked in the dealership's inventory to find a blue Ford Escape and presented him with the keys Monday.
Lowenfield said his grandfather, who started the dealership in 1969, created a culture of giving that has stayed with Casa Ford-Lincoln through the years.
"It's who we are, and our people have embraced that," he said. "I don't know that any community could prepare for a tragedy like this."
Initial feelings of shock, anger and sadness in El Paso, Lowenfield said, quickly led to a spirit of "rebuilding and healing."
Two weeks ago, Lowenfield gave every Casa Ford-Lincoln employee $20 to give to first responders, victims in the hospital and their families.
"I think our time and presence is the most valuable thing to help our community heal right now," he said. "Those are the little stories that bring us hope even in the midst of what still is very raw."
People in El Paso are more aware of one another now, Lowenfield said, and the effect they can have on others. "I've just sensed people caring for more people, smiling, asking, 'Are you OK?' — people wanting to find ways to help."