It turns out that Buffalo isn’t just the City of Good Neighbors, but the Region of Good Neighbors.
Just ask Tammy Sanders, the home health care aide who was stuck with a bill from the City of Buffalo for towing and storage fees after her stolen car was recovered.
A friend of Sanders contacted The Buffalo News to tell of her plight, and an article in Thursday’s newspaper brought dozens of responses from readers across Western New York offering to pick up the tab so she could get her car back from the impound lot.
Her 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass was stolen from in front of her East Side home Sept. 13. The car sat in the impound lot since Sept. 20, accruing $25 a day in storage costs, on top of a $90 towing fee, before she discovered several days ago that it had been recovered.
Sanders said she was unaware that the car had been found because notices were sent to her old address.
Because she is on a tight budget, making $9.65 an hour, Sanders feared she would not be able to afford retrieving her car. She bought the vehicle three years ago for $700 and relied on it for getting to work in Clarence.
Now her transportation worries have been put to rest.
Readers called and emailed The News to say they would contribute or pay the entire amount, which initially was more than $400, though the city later cut it in half to give Sanders a break.
By midmorning Thursday, several people had shown up or were headed to the Dart Street impound lot to pay the bill when they learned that an anonymous donor had beat them to the good deed.
The kindness doesn’t stop there.
Area residents want to help pay for the damage that the thief caused to the car’s steering column and have asked that their names and phone numbers be passed along to Sanders, who says she is overwhelmed by the flood of generosity.
“I’m thankful, very thankful,” said Sanders, her voice choked with emotion. “I didn’t expect this.”
From the Southtowns to Batavia, residents stepped up to help Sanders, who had been borrowing a friend’s car to get back and forth to work, sometimes twice a day because she works split shifts.
“I grew up in a family of 11 children, and I know that a little money can go a long way for someone who is struggling with bills,” said Marty Walters, a Derby resident. “I don’t fault anybody for this. It’s the car thief who stole her freedom.”
After waiting 30 minutes in line at the impound lot, Walters said a clerk informed him that the $200-plus bill had already been paid.
“There’s a lot of like-minded people who are looking out for each other. We are the City of Good Neighbors,” Walters said.
Tony Pecora, of Batavia, said he is willing to pay for damage to the steering column.
“My family is very compassionate. We do what we can. Here’s a woman trying to make a living, just one of the 99 percent in the country that needs help,” Pecora said. “She’s trying to make a living, and it’s great that people are coming forward. This is the Region of Good Neighbors.”
When Diana Alvira, of South Buffalo, heard that Sanders would need her car towed from the impound lot, she bought Sanders a year’s membership in the local AAA.
“To me, it didn’t make sense to pay for the cost of one tow when I was able to give her a full year of tows in the event that she has any additional problems with the car,” Alvira said. “I was taught from a young age to give back and help people in our community. I applaud her efforts to do everything she could to continue with her job.”
John M. Shaughnessy, a Hamburg resident, suggested that Buffalo parking enforcement officials set up a hotline that the owners of stolen vehicles can call to find out if their cars have been recovered.
“You would think that they could publicize this on the public-access cable television channel and have a website, too, to publicize recovered vehicles,” said Shaughnessy, who also expressed a desire to financially assist Sanders.
City spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge applauded the generosity.
“The city helped to resolve the situation, and, as always, as we know, we are the City of Good Neighbors for a reason,” DeGeorge said.
Of Shaughnessy’s suggestions, DeGeorge said he would look into whether additional notifications of stolen vehicles are available.
With her car at last home and repairs soon to be made, Sanders said, “I’m speechless. I’m speechless. My mom is in tears, and I’m speechless.”