Anita Singleton hasn’t owned a car for 10 years and walks to her job as a Walmart cashier on days that she can’t find a ride.
For the 52-year-old Slidell woman, it's a 6-mile hike that takes her nearly three hours to complete.
But from now on, Singleton will be driving to her job, and anywhere else she wants to go, thanks to the donation of a vehicle Wednesday.
Slidell Police Officer Bradley Peck had spotted Singleton walking along the road in the predawn darkness Monday morning, about to go over a two-lane U.S. 11 bridge over some railroad tracks.
Peck pulled up to see if anything was wrong, noticing Singleton’s Walmart vest. When he found out she was walking all the way to the store on Northshore Boulevard, he offered her a ride.
Peck took to social media to describe the encounter and the inspiration he had drawn from Singleton and her dedication to her job.
"I don't think she knows how much hope she gave me and the valuable life lesson she taught me," Peck said in his post.
That post and a subsequent news story inspired Matt Bowers, owner of Matt Bowers Chevrolet.
“Well, logically, I’m a car dealer, and I made the decision that the right thing to do for the community was to give Anita Singleton a car,” Bowers said.
Singleton’s friends and co-workers gathered at the dealership in Slidell on Wednesday afternoon, gleefully anticipating the surprise she was about to receive.
“She’s an amazing person,” said Crystal Warren. “When I go to Walmart, I look for her.”
Sharon Favalora agreed: “If you’re having a bad day, you leave smiling.”
Singleton, who arrived in a patrol car wearing her Walmart vest and name tag, didn’t know what was about to happen. Her co-workers said she thought she was going to do another news interview, and that was certainly true. A crowd of reporters and television cameras was gathered in front of the dealership.
“Really?” she asked, incredulously, as she was told the reason for the gathering. “Oh, thank you so very much.”
Singleton had her choice between two cars: a white Chevrolet Captiva and a dark red Traverse. Both were sporting large green and red bows.
Singleton sat in the Captiva first, then the Traverse. She quizzed a salesman about the gas mileage. She chose the Captiva.
Bowers is also paying for the insurance, taxes and registration on the vehicle, which will have a warranty as long as she owns it.
Singleton said she’ll have to get used to driving again, but she was already making plans for where she might take her new wheels.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a Honey Island swamp tour," she said.