CHICAGO (CBS) — The owner of a car repair garage in the Edison Park neighborhood has seen a program called “Wheels To Prosper” – which gives cars to deserving people – grow from a couple garages to 25 across the country.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Steve Ek, owner of Ek Automotive Repair, said the initiative came about when he and other garage owners were at a convention, kicking around ideas.

“We wanted to give cars to deserving people; people who maybe have fallen on hard times, but yet don’t stop,” he said.

Ek and two dozen other garage owners asked people to write letters, nominating someone for a used — but rebuilt — car.

The group got a dozen letters this year, and by the third letter, Ek said he was bawling.

“It just pulls at your heartstrings,” Ek said.

A committee chooses each year’s winner. One of This year’s winners was Connie Rogers – who works with terminally ill children, and is the single mother of an autistic girl, who has a brutal commute by bus.

The parents of a sick child wrote a four-page letter on her behalf.

“They felt that she had done so much for their daughter,” Ek said. “Here she is, building relationships with people that are eventually going to pass away. She’s the single parent of an autistic daughter.”

Rogers was thrilled to get an overhauled PT Cruiser.

“It really is a great feeling to feel so appreciated by somebody, to be nominated for it, to win a car, something that we really needed. I’m going to start crying,” she said.

Ek said all the parts and labor were donated.

He’d like to see more garages get involved in the initiative.

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