Used car helped nonprofit reunite this San Jose family

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For six months Monique Brito only got to see her kids on the weekends.

“I was incomplete,” she said, recalling those painful months, when her car broke down and she needed to send her kids to live with their grandfather so they could get to school and she could take a bus to work.

She was stuck — literally — last year when the auto repair shops kept telling her it was going to cost more than $8,000 to replace the engine of her Hyundai. “I took it to a few places, and they were just telling me outrageous numbers that I couldn’t afford,” she said.

Without a functioning car, the 32-year-old single mom could no longer make it from her home in Morgan Hill to drop off her son Elias, 10, and her daughter Evangelina, 13, at their schools in East San Jose, and then get back to South San Jose in time for her job in a dental office. So she asked her dad if his grandchildren could live with him on the weekdays, much closer to their schools.

It was the right thing for the kids, but “it was tough,” Brito remembers. “It made me feel like everything that I worked so hard for was for nothing.”

Monique Brito, center, talks during an interview with her children, Evangelina Ayala, 13, right, and Elias Brito, 10, on Oct. 12, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. The San Jose non-profit Maintenance for Moms replaced Brito's broken car with a 2016 Hyundai Elantra earlier this year. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Monique Brito, center, talks during an interview with her children, Evangelina Ayala, 13, right, and Elias Brito, 10, on Oct. 12, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

She started saving up for a new car, but then a friend suggested she reach out to Maintenance for Moms — a San Jose-based nonprofit that helps single moms with car repairs.

She applied, and after the nonprofit determined Brito’s car was not worth the expensive repair, she received the pink slip to a gently used 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT, courtesy of the local nonprofit.

It wasn’t just a car. It was a gift that reunited her little family.

Monique Brito, center, and her children, Evangelina Ayala, 13, right, and Elias Brito, 10, with their new 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT on Oct. 12, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. The San Jose non-profit Maintenance for Moms replaced Brito's broken car with the Hyundai Elantra earlier this year. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Monique Brito, center, and her children, Evangelina Ayala, 13, right, and Elias Brito, 10, with their new 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT on Oct. 12, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

The nonprofit was created and originally funded in 2019 by Ashot Iskandarian, founder of ShopMonkey, a tech company that provides software for auto mechanic shops, and his wife Annie Iskandarian. In just over four years, the organization has helped 318 moms, paying for over 330 repairs, and gifting 44 used and donated cars.

Maintenance for Moms accepts applications from local single moms in Santa Clara County through its website, then invites those who meet the criteria, like Brito, for interviews at their offices in West San Jose.

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