It may have been two weeks after Christmas, but Santa came in the form of Gulfport Garage owner Eric Cudar for a mother and son in need.
On January 14, in response to a “Letter to Santa,” Cudar completed $1,200 worth of repairs for Maria Colon and Maverick Nothstein’s 1994 Ford Thunderbird that was running on its last leg.
Every year, Veronica DaSilva and her wife, Jules Stenstrom, set up a Santa’s mailbox outside their Gulfport home for local kids to drop off letters to the big man himself.
The duo normally dispatch Santa’s helpers to answer the letters, but when they received 17-year-old Nothstein’s letter asking for Santa’s help to make his mother’s car safe, DaSilva and Stenstrom decided to make a few calls. One of those calls was to Gulfport Garage.
“We got this letter and it really moved me,” DaSilva said. “Here is a 17-year-old boy asking for nothing for himself, just his mother’s car to be repaired.”
The repairs, regular maintenance fixes and tire repairs, totaled up to $1,200, and will keep the car reliable for longer, according to Cudar.
“I guess people just know me as soft-hearted,” Cudar said. “In this case, I just thought it was really cool that a kid that age would think to do that.”
Nothstein saw the big red mail box as he rode his bike in the area a week before Christmas. That’s when he decided to drop off his own request to the jolly old elf.
In addition to cutting off the family’s reliable transportation, the Thunderbird’s mechanical issues also put a stop to the long drives Colon and Nothstein would take together.
“We took car rides about once a month, just to have a nice long drive, or get some food,” Colon said. “When the car started acting up, I told him we couldn’t trust it anymore, except for me to get to work and back.”
Colon, who works as a security guard at a Pinellas County hospital, adopted Nothstein three years ago. She had no children of her own, and was a friend of Nothstein’s family throughout his life.
The two plan to resume cruising together in the coming weeks.
“I love the kid,” Colon said. “It caught me off guard. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.”