December 3, 2020


Tears filled her eyes, and Linda Bianchi nearly broke down and cried. She was talking about the 11-year-old car Good News Garage had given her.

The car makes nearly everything in life possible for her.

“It gets me to work. I can’t make ends meet without this job. It’s how I socialize. Everything would fall apart without it. It’s my life,” says the 65-year-old Springfield resident.

Bianchi is a recruiter for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. She tells people older than 55 about the agency’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, and she gets them to sign up. The program places seniors into part-time jobs. Bianchi couldn’t work without a car.

“I can’t just take a bus to an office. I have to go to where the seniors are,” she says.

That means Bianchi drives around the greater Springfield area to food pantries, shelters, senior centers, shopping malls, churches — wherever seniors get together. The 2009 Pontiac Vibe with its 144,000 miles on the odometer makes it all possible.

“I’m scrambling from site to site all the time and now with winter and the bad weather coming, I can’t walk from place to place,” she says.

Bianchi is under a doctor’s care for attention deficit disorder. It’s also painful for her to walk because of problems with her spine. The rehabilitation commission put Bianchi in touch with Good News Garage, based in Burlington, Vermont. The organization provides reliable used cars to those who need them.

“People donate their old cars to us, and we have them inspected by mechanics. It costs an average of $2,500 to get the cars repaired and back on the road,” says Thomas Kupfer, marketing specialist for Good News Garage.

Bianchi got her car in October. She’d been without a vehicle since before the pandemic struck. Her church gave her an old car, but it died even after major repairs. “We gave it our best shot, got it fixed and a month later it broke down. I was broken hearted,” she says

Her son also tried to help, giving her a vehicle she calls “a little bomb.” That died too. Finally, Good News Garage came to the rescue with the Pontiac.

“My whole life changed when I got this car. It helps keep my life going. It’s a key to life. Now I can go to the doctor, see my friends, and keep my job,” she says.

Good News Garage has awarded well over 5,000 cars to people throughout New England since its founding in 1996. The organization accepts just about any vehicle that has four wheels and can be towed to a repair shop.

“If we can’t fix the vehicle so its passes inspection and provides reliable transportation, then we sell it at auction and those proceeds help fund the program,” says Kupfer. State financing also helps keep Good News Garage running.

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SPRINGFIELD – Two city residents and two people from Vermont are charged with drug trafficking and unlawful weapons possession after police found them with large amounts of heroin, cocaine and two guns on St. James Avenue, police said.

Police spokesman Ryan Walsh said narcotics officers stopped the car early Wednesday at a St. James Avenue convenience store because it matched the description of a vehicle seen fleeing an earlier shooting.

Police found the occupants in possession of two loaded firearms, and a search of the trunk revealed 1,000 bags of heroin, 16 grams of crack cocaine, and 65 grams of powder cocaine.

Arrested were Amika Blake, 23, of Harvard St., Walter Jones, 25, of State Street, and Richard LeBlanc, 36, and Kristen Williams, 37, each of Burlington, Vermont.

Each was charged with trafficking between 36 and 100 grams of cocaine and between 18 and 36 grams of cocaine, conspiracy to violate drug laws, and several weapons charges including possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm without a license, and carrying a loaded, large-capacity firearm in an public way.

They were due to be arraigned Wednesday in Springfield District Court.

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