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MailTribune.com
  • Community steps up to help struggling Central Point family

    Auto shops donate parts, labor to fix Baker family's car
  • A Facebook rant about a broken down Kia Rio sparked an outpouring of generosity for a struggling Central Point family who has seen an incredible run of bad luck this year.
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  • A Facebook rant about a broken down Kia Rio sparked an outpouring of generosity for a struggling Central Point family who has seen an incredible run of bad luck this year.
    Heidi Baker had her fill when she went to Facebook recently to air out her frustration that the family's 2002 Kia Rio had blown a head gasket, which left it sitting useless in their driveway.
    The car troubles capped a brutal year, which saw her husband, Nathan Baker, diagnosed with diabetes and a brain tumor within days of each other.
    "It was just one thing after another," Heidi Baker said.
    Her husband was sent home from job training in the Midwest after the company determined his health issues left him unfit for the labor required.
    He underwent successful surgery in Portland for the brain tumor, but the operation has left him severely limited in what kind of work he can take on.
    The couple have five children to support and money was tight. There was no way they could afford to fix the Kia without crippling them financially.
    Luckily, a friend saw the Facebook post and related the story to her husband.
    "I was watching my favorite TV show when my wife made me pause it," said Chuck Nagy, who owns Shady Cove Automotive. "She told me we had to fix it."
    Nagy roped in numerous friends, co-workers and others in the Rogue Valley car business to donate parts and labor to get the Kia fixed.
    The project began as a head gasket repair, but once the repairmen peaked under the hood, they saw a lot more work that needed to be done.
    "We saw it also had a cracked exhaust manifold," Nagy said. "That's a job that a dealer would charge $800 for."
    Nagy tapped his buddy Tim Temper from TC Technology, who agreed to weld the manifold. Dan King Racing agreed to tow the vehicle to the shop.
    Keller Automotive donated machine work to rebuild the head, and Baxter Auto Parts kicked in the head gasket set, head bolts, thermostat, spark plugs and plug wires for a tune-up.
    Nagy said the project took on a life of its own after word reached the local Fred Meyer, which donated gifts to the family. Numerous other donations, including gas cards and gift certificates poured in, Nagy said.
    The Kia was unveiled to the family at the Baxter Auto Parts store on Biddle Road on Saturday.
    The Bakers, who only expected the repaired head gasket, were overwhelmed at the generosity directed to them by the community.
    "We had no idea there was this much support for us out there in the community," Nathan Baker said. "We are very, very thankful."
    The Bakers are a working family that has learned to make do with what they have, but the extra support will help usher out what has been a tough year.
    "Fortunately, my surgery was successful and I hope to get back to full-time work soon," he said.
    Todd Merrill, who manages the Baxter Auto Parts store in White City, said the total bill for the work would have topped $2,200.
    "The money wasn't an issue here," he said. "You always want to give back when you can."
    The Bakers huddled around the Kia with family and friends before it was time to load their gifts into the car and hit the key.
    "It was hard not to shed a tear in a moment like this," Nathan Baker said.
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