Hero of Helena
Top Gun Auto Body and Recovery took the opportunity to give back to local heroes with their Hero of Helena Car Giveaway.
Three Helena women will now have a better way to get around town, thanks to support from the community.
Top Gun Auto Body held its second annual Hero of Helena vehicle giveaway on Saturday. This year, they decided to help women going through YWCA Helena’s WINGS program – Women Initiating New Growth and Stability. The program provides transitional housing for women and their children, while helping them with things like finding stable permanent housing, looking for employment and continuing their education.
Three finalists were selected, and the public was asked to vote for who should receive a new vehicle. More than 1,200 votes were cast.
Top Gun owner Ted Culbertson announced Saturday that the first-place winner was Katrina Fisher. She received a fully rebuilt GMC Terrain SUV.
“It’s going to mean a more stable future for me and my five children, to further our connection with the community and let me further my education,” Fisher said.
But Culbertson also revealed that the other two finalists, Christina Riley and Marion Follette, would also receive cars. Queen City Exxon donated a second vehicle, and Top Gun staff chipped in to purchase a third.
For Riley, having a car will make it easier to get back and forth to Missoula to pick up her children. For Follette, the car means she can deal with her health needs without relying on her 80-year-old father for transportation.
YWCA Helena executive director Jen Gursky said Helena is a community that can be hard to get around without a car. She said having vehicles will be invaluable as these women continue their growth and recovery.
“This is a huge bridge to success for them,” she said.
Fisher said she was grateful to Top Gun and to the people who voted for her.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “All the women at the YWCA are just so amazing, so there was definitely some competition.”
Culbertson also surprised the YWCA during Saturday’s event, presenting them with a $5,000 donation from Top Gun and a $1,000 check from Steed Industries. He said he’s honored to help out, and that he hopes to continue the Hero of Helena giveaway year after year.
“There’s a lot of really selfless people in this community that do the right thing, and we can do our part,” he said.
A Helena Valley auto shop is giving back this weekend to some local veterans.
Top Gun Auto Body hosted the Hero of Helena giveaway Saturday afternoon. Owner Ted Culbertson and his employees prepared a fully accessible wheelchair van. They then picked three local veterans with special mobility needs, and asked the public to vote for one to receive the van.
At the giveaway, Culbertson announced the first-prize winner was Daniel Koehl, known for his Veterans Coffee Drive program that collects donations of coffee and other items for patients at the VA. But, in a surprise, he also announced that Stephen Keim, another local veteran, had donated a second accessible van, meaning second-place finisher John Cole won as well.
Koehl said he currently has a truck, but it’s difficult for him to load his wheelchair without falling.
“I’ll be able to do anything I need to do to get in now in the van without falling,” he said. “I can’t say how good it’s going to be. It’s just awesome. My heart is just so full.”
Cole has a van, but said the new one will be easier to get in and out of.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the van,” he said. “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever won anything.”
The third veteran, Royal Magnus, was not able to attend Saturday’s event, but he also received a $1,000 grocery card from Vans Thriftway.
Culbertson said he was honored to be able to help these deserving veterans.
“It’s very important for me to give back, and one thing we can give back is cars,” he said.
In addition to Top Gun Auto Body, a number of other businesses worked on the new van. Point S Tire donated the wheels and tires, Milledge Muffler and Brake provided the exhaust system, and Axalta Coatings did the van’s finish.
Koehl said the Helena community has always been remarkably supportive of veterans.
“This community takes so good care of us,” he said.