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Recycled Rides: Local family receives a reconstructed car

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 5, 2012 - Antonio Bobo towered above the wooden podium between him and row after row of onlookers seated in the Mary Ann Lee center at Ranken Technical College. On his left was a freshly detailed Ford Taurus, and on his right were mounds of wrapped presents. Bobo, pausing every so often to wipe away tears, gave thanks to those both in attendance and absent for their gifts to him and his family.

The Bobo family, which includes Antonio; his wife, LaTasha, and six children ranging in age from 17 years old to one on the way any day now, has waded through stormy waters the last several years.

Bobo has been working to steer his life in a good direction since his release from jail in 2006. He had been enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, playing basketball and looking to pursue a degree in psychology when he crossed the law and was sentenced to prison.

After his release, Bobo got help from the Area Recourses for Community and Human Services. ARCHS assigned him a mentor, Felece Brown, who helped him get training in automotive maintenance from Ranken College, and later find a job.

“I looked at what I thought would be a good fit for him,” Brown said.

Bobo is now an assistant manager at a car service facility in University City. Brown has stayed in contact with Bobo even after he passed through the ARCHS program. According to her, the real test of improvement doesn’t come from a person simply going through the steps the program lays out, or even just doing the program for the benefit of their family. In the case of Bobo, Brown said she saw real change.

“You can supply a person with training, you can supply him with employment, but until they actually get it and want to change and not do it for me or their wife or mother or for some other family member,” he or she can’t succeed, Brown said. “He has the potential, and everything there, that he needed.”

This half-decade of self-betterment and education eventually led Bobo back to Ranken. This time, however, he was not receiving an education, but a means to help support his family.

Through collaboration with the Recycled Rides program, a nationwide effort that finds and repairs cars to be donated to families in need, Ranken got and then fixed up a 2006 Ford Taurus.

The college’s students spent more than 80 hours working on the car, and such businesses as Esurance and Firestone donated parts and supplies to get the car fully functional. When it became time for the school to pick a recipient for the Taurus, Brown called Bobo and asked him if he wanted a new vehicle.

“I’m like “Do I want a car? Come on Ms. Brown, quit playing’,” Bobo said. Bobo said his mentor then explained about Ranken’s participation in the Recycled Rides program, that Brown had put his name forward to receive the vehicle.

“I feel blessed. I feel honored,” Bobo said. “It’ll help us out a lot.” The Bobo family has been driving an aging Suburban that is less than ideal for Bobo’s daily commute from O’Fallon to University City. In addition to the car, when the students and faculty learned about the Bobo family, many joined forces and purchased presents, including toys, books and a desktop computer, for Antonio, LaTasha and their kids.

All of the Bobo family members got gifts.
Antonio Bobo and his family open a few of the presents from Ranken students and faculty.

“Our student body has pulled together,” said John Wood, vice president for student success at Ranken. “It's kind of a neat addition to the car giveaway.”

Bobo said he and his wife are focusing on raising their kids in a loving environment, and that he wants them to avoid the mistakes that he made. It’s his past, however, that Bobo feels gives him the tools to be a better father and role model for his kids.

“Someone told me that you can’t have a testimony without a test,” Bobo said. “The things from my past must define me, but [also] give me a clear outlook of what my future shouldn’t be, and what I want better for my kids.”

Dan Fox Beacon intern