PASADENA, Texas – A 17-year-old car owner, once troubled with nervousness and frustration, is now unexpectedly overwhelmed with the feeling of hope, in awe from the kindness of others.
"I think it's wonderful...I never asked for help," said Pedro Garcia.
The teen felt stuck after being hit with a storage facility bill he doesn't believe he should have to pay.
The teen's car was stolen in Pasadena and he filed a report. He learned days later, however, that while his car had been found and brought to a storage lot, he was never notified.
"It's just hard because that's so much money for something I didn't do," Pedro Garcia said.
Garcia bought his 1998 Honda Civic with his hard-earned money.
"I worked with my brother, and now I have a job still," Garcia said. "I try to support myself so my mom won't have to worry about it. [The car] is not the best, but it gets me from point A to point B. It's just the car I could afford."
However, last Sunday, in the early morning, while visiting his brother in Pasadena, Garcia and his brother noticed something very wrong.
"Woke up. My car was gone," Garcia said.
Pasadena police records show the car was stolen from the Broadwater apartment complex on the 5000 block of Crenshaw Road. But after Garcia's brother called the complex the next day and finding out from them that the car wasn't towed there, Garcia said he reported it to Pasadena police as stolen.
"It was formal. It was quick. They asked me what the car looked like. I told them what it looked like and they left," Garcia said.
However, a week later, on July 31, Garcia said he was shocked to find a bill in the mail from a vehicle storage facility in Houston, saying his car had been sitting in its lot since July 25, a day after Garcia filed the report with Pasadena police.
"It was seven days and I [just] got the letter so the charges had been racking up," Garcia said.
The vehicle storage facility's letter to Garcia showed that the car was towed from the Sterling Point living complex on the 6600 block of Dunlap Street in Houston. The final bill read $445.71 plus another $20 for having someone bring the car outside the lot, Garcia said.
Garcia was finally able to take the car back after nine days, only to find that the car's radio and back carpet, among other valuables, were missing. At the moment, he said, it needs lots of repair, and it is not drivable.
"It's something that's really hard to pay for, for me, because I don't make much," Garcia said. "It sets me back a lot on things that I would hope to buy in the future like things that would help me with college. I was planning on buying a computer, a laptop, for college but now I have to step back on that."
The police report was filed on July 24, but Pasadena police said they were never notified that the car was found at the other location and towed. Police said they entered the information, reporting the car as "stolen" on July 24. The vehicle storage facility said it ran the information for Garcia's car, but did not notify Houston police because it did not come up as "stolen" in the system on July 25, the day it was brought in. The facility also explained that it may take time for the paperwork to be processed and reflected in the system.
After Garcia explained to the facility staff and police about his stolen car and the fine, to no avail, Garcia realized he was out of luck.
"It's just hard because that's so much money for something I didn't do," Garcia said. "It wasn't my fault."
Pasadena police also wanted to warn other drivers that if a stolen car is picked up outside Pasadena from private property, i.e. if an apartment complex orders the towing of a stolen car, depending on where it is towed, the towing or vehicle storage agencies may not have to report it to police, and therefore, police would have no way of knowing a stolen car was found. Pasadena police describe this situation as a "crack" in the system that they say can happen to anyone.
But after KPRC2 talked with Garcia, there were calls in with people who were inspired to help the teen help himself move forward, including Rene Reynolds and her husband Dennis Woleben.
"I just felt compelled that there's a young man who's working, saves his money, [intending to go] to college, and he gets put in this unfortunate situation where he's having to pay a ridiculous amount of money--something made me pick up my laptop," said Reynolds, who KPRC asked to go on camera. "When you have someone who really does want to do the same things that I do, which is do the right thing and when you see someone kind of get kicked to the curb -- you really feel bad and I'm very fortunate and very blessed in life and I have a way that I can give back."
Reynolds and her husband said they've helped others, monetarily, before, but not to this magnitude. They had offered to foot the bill for the $445 storage fee that Garcia had paid.
"I hope it lets him know that there are good people out there, there are generous people out there -- not everyone wants to 'get ya,' said Woleben. "I hope he uses it for something -- he wanted a laptop for college -- I hope he uses it for that."
Garcia said he couldn't be more grateful and was stunned by the offers of help he's received.
"I really didn’t ask for the help, I just wanted to get the point across, to help other people, you know?
Because people are joining and helping me, I really appreciate it, and I love how kind-hearted people are in this world," said Garcia.
He said he never expected to be handed anything, but vows to use this money to help himself fix his car, get through college and in turn pay it forward for years to come. He said he will never forget this act of kindness.
"I really appreciate it. We need more people like them -- very loving, and I hope something great happens to them also," said Garcia with a smile. "I’m sure they’ve done the whole pay it forward thing, and I’m going to proceed that too."
He said he will be getting himself a laptop for college.