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Early Christmas present: Car a blessing for State College of Florida student, single mom

BRADENTON

Sleep didn’t come easy for Sibhon Wicks on Monday night.

Her excitement was like a child’s on Christmas Eve.

“I was too scared. I was afraid if I woke up, it would be a dream,” said Wicks, 23.

It wasn’t a dream.

The desert sand 2000 Toyota Camry she received Tuesday at Gettel Toyota was real, as is the year’s free service, a gift from the Gettel corporation to help the single mom continue rebuilding a life for her and her 4-year-old daughter Mimi.

The presentation was emotional.

Her grandmother, Leona Wicks, praised God as a tearful Wicks accepted the keys.

“I can spend Christmas with my family in Arcadia,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible until I got this blessing. Now I can by the grace of God and Gettel.”

The car is a lifeline for a young woman who escaped an abusive relationship, lives temporarily at Our Mother’s House, a Catholic Charities agency in Venice, works a part-time job and goes to State College of Florida, but has to take a bus to do it.

“This is going to open doors for me — to get another job, work longer hours, go to and from school, do more with my daughter,” Wicks said. “There have been many days I wanted to take her somewhere and I wasn’t able.”

When Jim Gettel read about Sibhon (pronounced SIB-bawn) Wicks and her struggles, the Gettel owner and chief executive officer decided to help.

“It seemed like her whole world was full of possibilities and with that kind of ambition, that drive, this was a natural way to help,” he said. “We’ve donated to other charities ... but to do something for her felt good.”

Feeling good was foreign to Wicks for so long.

She barely knew her father, a career soldier.

Her mother, after moving to Arcadia from Killeen, Texas, dropped off the 2-year-old girl at her paternal grandparents and never returned.

“It was hard,” Wicks said. “I remember kids in school would say things and make me cry. Everybody knew what my situation was.”

After graduating from DeSoto County High in 2005, she met a man in Bradenton and fell in love.

Or so she believed.

“The first couple of months, I felt like a princess. It was everything I wished for,” Wicks said. “Then when I got pregnant, hell’s doors opened up.”

It was an abusive relationship that lasted until April 2008 when she left.

“I wanted to make it work,” Wicks said. “I wasn’t raised to have a baby by this guy and another baby by that guy. I was raised to have a family. But how can you do so much for a person and have them do this to you?”

Such pain was replaced by abundant happiness Tuesday. “When you have nothing, it just means so much when people do things like this,” said Rita Millner, a case worker at Our Mother’s House, looking on.

“This is the best Christmas present I can ever imagine,” Wicks said. “The sky is the limit now.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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