BROOKSVILLE — The 68-year-old retired trucker is rolling again.
On Monday, Dixie Carley, a 24-year over-the-road veteran, slid behind the wheel of what she's calling "a Rolls-Royce of the Toyota line." The silver Camry XLE four-door sedan was made possible by friends and strangers who came to her aid when they learned that her 1991 Toyota van had "expired" at the 275,000-mile mark.
Left in the lurch was not only she, but elderly women, some in an assisted living facility, who depended on Carley to cart them to First Baptist Church of Brooksville, doctor's appointments and the grocery store.
Fellow church members Joyce Chiavroli and Todd Harris began a fund drive, including on the Web, seeking money for the disabled woman, who remains licensed to drive and who lives in subsidized housing.
A couple from the church became aware of Carley's plight through a story published in the Times and notified their son-in-law. As joint owner in several nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the younger man is acquainted with the needs of the elderly.
The son-in-law, who lives in Clearwater and wished to remain anonymous, offered a generous amount toward the purchase of a used vehicle, which was Carley's choice.
Her mechanic of some nine years, Michael O'Connor, owner of ToyoDoc of Brooksville, researched offerings in the area and pointed Carley and Chiavroli to Wesley Chapel Toyota. O'Connor and a sales rep at the dealership talked.
"Between the two guys, I think they already picked it out," Chiavroli said.
The most generous benefactor gave $7,200 while the remainder of the $9,000 price was made up by the church's gift of $500 and from lesser donations.
While Carley originally wanted a van, she told herself: "You ain't in no position to be picky; just take what the good Lord give you."
The sedan will easily cart three to four passengers, the most she usually ferries at a time.
Carley had coffee this week with her benefactor's in-laws.
"I hugged their necks because they had a good deal to do with this business, too," she said.
As for the vehicle, "It has more buttons than I've got teeth," Carley said. "It runs like a dream. It is beautiful. It's paid in full."
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]