Wake County

Wheeler: Van donated to family still not drivable

Burgetta Eplin Wheeler

Sitting in the grass outside Charise Henderson’s Raleigh home is a 1995 Ford minivan that the Helping Hand Mission kindly gave her in December.

Unfortunately, sitting in the grass is all the van has done for nearly six months because the gift didn’t come with the vehicle’s title. Without the title, the family cannot get the van registered, licensed or insured, says Henderson’s mother, Yolanda Henderson. Which means no one can drive it.

That’s a real shame, given that the van – or perhaps a different one – was donated to the mission specifically in response to a November column that detailed Charise’s difficulties in getting her baby, a liver-transplant recipient, to his medical appointments at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Five visits with Yolanda and three trips to the mission have yet to clear up exactly why the van remains untitled.

Someone was generous enough to donate a van to the mission but didn’t sign over the title?

Willie Thorpe, an employee at the Helping Hand Mission, says he lost it.

He and another Helping Hand worker have submitted a lost-title form to the DMV several times, he says, but no title has been forthcoming. First, a discrepancy in the model year of the van caused a delay. Now, he says, a title can’t be issued because the lost-title form shows Charise’s last name as Henderson and her identification shows it as Smith (she is divorced now).

Until Henderson fills out an $80 affidavit saying she’s the same person, Thorpe says, nothing can be done. Mission workers, however, filled out a new lost-title form when they realized they had the van’s year wrong, so it would seem they could fill out yet another one with Charise’s legal name.

“The ball is in their court now,” says Sylvia Wiggins, director of the Helping Hand Mission. Wiggins is a notary public and notarized the lost-title forms.

Four hospitalizations

That the ball has been bouncing around now for more than five months is absurd – especially as Henderson’s baby, Za’Mont, has been hospitalized at least four times since December. Each time, Charise has had to take the baby on a bus, which is dangerous for his immune system, or on an $80 cab ride, Yolanda says.

Charise and Za’Mont, in fact, have been at Duke since the day after Easter. Charise has been home only once, on a three-hour round-trip bus ride, to see her other children because she has no transportation.

On Easter Sunday, Charise spent the day alarmed, watching Za’Mont get increasingly sicker. About 1 a.m. Monday, she called Duke, Yolanda says, but the person who answered calmed Charise and advised her on several ways to ease the baby’s distress.

Later that day, the baby was even sicker, and Charise took the earliest bus that could get them to Duke, where Za’Mont goes every week for blood work. A massive infection from his feeding tube, followed by two hospital-related infections, have taken the baby to the brink of death several times. He remains in critical but stable condition, his grandmother says.

That the family couldn’t use the van to take the baby to the hospital earlier upsets Yolanda.

“She didn’t have a way,” Yolanda says. “If she had the van running, she could have been there at 1 a.m. that morning.”

Trying to get help

Charise has walked to the Helping Hand Mission, only blocks away from her home, several times over the months trying to get the paperwork figured out, Yolanda says.

Wiggins says that she continued to help the family with food and visits since delivering the van in December and that no one complained to her about the lack of a title. She says she thought other mission workers had taken care of it.

Numerous people have volunteered to help get the van in good working order, Yolanda says. Charise has bought a battery. Someone has offered to buy tires. Another church friend has mentioned getting the family six months of insurance.

Originally, Yolanda says, Wiggins told the family that someone had donated a newer van. When Wiggins brought the Ford, she said something was wrong with the other van’s engine, Yolanda says.

The make and model don’t matter to the family, Yolanda says. They’re grateful for any van that makes their difficult lives easier.

Some kind soul was touched enough by Charise’s story five months ago to give the family a van through the mission.

It sure would be nice if the family could actually use it.

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