Automotive businesses in Warkworth have turned what could have been a travel disaster into a story of generosity and teamwork.
When young French tourists, Sophie and Jimmy Le Francois, pulled in to the STR Automotive workshop in Glenmore Drive last month, they had no idea that the van they had recently purchased in Auckland for $7600 was beyond repair.
STR owners Steve Hawes and Tracey Proffit say the couple came in concerned that the car was “driving badly”.
“We fixed the cross member that was ready to fall off, as well as the brakes and crankshaft pulley,” T
racey says. “But the warrant was about to expire, so we referred them to Tucker Panelbeaters because there was rust on both sides of the roof.
“They were devastated when they got the verdict that it was uneconomical to repair.
“I think they were ready to get on the next plane back to France.”
And that’s when STR Automotive turned to the power of social media. First they found the couple a place to stay, kindly offered by Cat Railey. Then the search was on for a replacement van.
United Autos came to the party with a van at “a very good price”, but it needed to be fitted out for travel.
A working bee was organised on the Saturday, when STR Automotive staff and others shifted everything from “the lemon” to the new van, including the kitchen sink.
Repco, Warkworth Tinting, cabinetmaker Paul Keenan and Mitre 10 Mega all pitched in to help. By 6.30pm, the couple was ready to go.
“It really restores your faith in the sense of community here in Warkworth,” Steve says. “In the space of a few days, Sophie and Jimmy were on a real rollercoaster of emotions, but we’re happy to say they are now in the Bay of Islands and thoroughly enjoying their travel.”
In a message to STR Automotive, Sophie and Jimmy wrote: “Thank you very much for your help! We were so lucky to meet you. Thanks to you and your ideas, we can continue our travel in New Zealand.
And we also want to thank all the people who helped us … so many kind people we met! We’ll never forget this beautiful story.”
Tracey also started a ‘give a little’ page to help defray some of the unexpected costs the couple had encountered. To donate, visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/nolemonhere