BROOKSVILLE — Even in retirement, Dixie Carley, a 24-year veteran of over-the-road trucking, puts her driving skills to good use. She carts less independent friends and neighbors to church services and functions, to doctor appointments, to the grocery store.
Until about a month ago, that is.
That's when Carley's 1991 Toyota van, with 275,000 miles, "expired," said the 68-year-old on disability.
With a blown head gasket and in need of other repairs, Carley's trusty transport had just one destination left, her neighborhood mechanic told her. She called a junkyard, which hauled away the seven-passenger van she had purchased used in 2003.
Carley hasn't been to the grocery store since. She can walk, if necessary, "about 25 minutes if I take a shortcut." Her "church family" has provided transportation to and from three weekly services she attends at First Baptist Church of Brooksville.
What concerns Carley most is leaving in the lurch the older women who have depended on her generous offers of rides. The passengers have included two regulars who live in an assisted living facility.
Carley saw the van and her charity work as a calling from God.
Debilitated by spinal curvature and forced to walk with a cane, Carley said, "There's a long story behind how I got this van. God gave me that van nine years ago, and I felt that's what God wanted me to do — to drive people around. The Lord blessed me with that van; he wanted me to help others, so that's what I did."
Now, other friends are coming to the aid of the widow, who lives on a fixed income in subsidized housing. Friends have launched a drive to raise $4,000 to buy a replacement vehicle for Carley.
Church member Todd M. Harris, a computer specialist, set up a Web page — gofundme.com/1d629s — that details Carley's need and provides a way to donate to the cause. Friend Joyce Chiavroli is managing the campaign, which so far has tallied donations of $655 by 12 people. She can be contacted at (352) 754-8681.
Carley said the $4,000 figure is "a wild guess." She would prefer a 2000 or 2001 Toyota, rather than a newer vehicle, because she calculates she can afford insurance for it. Her mechanic and men from her church are looking for a suitable buy.
Said Carley: "Any help you can give would be a great blessing, not only for me, but for others that I might help."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.