When Kayla Pace of Three Rivers was in the news last month, it was because she was one of the victims in a rainy-day six-car pileup on the way to visit her alma mater, U.C. Davis. She’s back in the news this week, and it’s one of those holiday gift-giving stories that underscores the true spirit  of the season — giving unselfishly.
Earlier this week, Kayla was selected from among a half-dozen finalists to receive a recently restored 2000 Plymouth Neon, courtesy of Central Valley Collision Repair. The unique gift idea is the brainchild of Lisa Colburn, the Visalia body shop’s owner, who wanted to start an annual holiday tradition to gift a restored vehicle to a family in need of transportation.  
Jose de la Cruz, an estimator for Central Valley Collision Repair, said  finding the right vehicle and the actual restoration work took two months to complete: mechanical work, new paint, tires, and full detailing of the interior. The Neon was selected from the tow lot of one of CVCR’s vendors because of its low mileage: 56,000. 
Kayla, 25, a law student and single mom, works four part-time jobs to support her six-year-old son, including providing respite care for foster kids in Visalia. She can also be found creating sandwiches behind the counter at Sierra Subs and Salads in Three Rivers. 
Kayla was struggling to meet all her commitments. Reliable transportation, Pace said, especially in rural Three Rivers, is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. 
She said that once she found herself without a vehicle, she tried to rely on public transportation and loaned vehicles to make due. She saw a ray of hope when her pastor at Rise Church in Visalia told her about Central Valley Collision Repair of Visalia and their plan to give a car to a local single mother. 
Kayla shared her story with CVCR and hoped and prayed, even persistently writing “car” on prayer cards every week and enlisting the goodwill of those attending her church.
“Her story stood out among all the rest,” said de la Cruz. “This was due to the fact that she had recently been involved in a serious accident with a relative’s car.”
Kayla was told Wednesday, Dec. 20, that she was one of five single moms still in the running to receive the car. She only needed to come into the body shop for an in-person interview, she was informed.
Kayla arrived at CVCR’s Visalia location on Burke Street and introduced herself to the owner and manager. They admitted to her that the decision had already been made before she came in for the interview. The fully restored car, six months of insurance, and one year of free maintenance were all hers.
After inviting family members to accompany her, Pace made it back for the official unveiling on Friday, Dec. 22.  The car was filled with Christmas gifts, not only for her and her son, Eli, and for a dog. Kayla doesn’t have a dog, but those gifts will be much appreciated by her mother’s dog. 
“Even though I felt strangely at peace about my situation, I was excited to tears when I found out,” said Pace. “I’m very thankful to my family, my pastor, my church, and the community in general. I’m very blessed.”
Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. Just ask Kayla Pace.   

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