When Milton Whittington was told he'd been nominated to receive a free car through a national promotion to help people in need, he was dubious.
"I didn't believe it," Whittington, of Waukegan, said. "I was very wary."
But on Wednesday, as the 63-year-old Army veteran climbed behind the wheel of a shiny, silver 2005 Dodge Neon SE, he smiled broadly.
"I'm grateful," he said afterward. "I'm a grateful and humble man."
Whittington received the car as part of the national Recycled Ride program, which teams body shops with recipients. The participating shop was Carstar in Mundelein, and that's where Whittington and a handful of family members gathered Wednesday night for the big delivery.
Whittington knew he was getting a car but didn't see it until the ceremony, which was attended by Carstar employees, local business owners and a few Mundelein officials.
"Wow," Whittington said as he walked around the car for the first time. "Wow. Look at that."
The Dodge, which had been badly damaged in an accident, was donated to the cause by Esurance. Carstar employees refurbished the car, donating their labor.
Parts and services were donated by area businesses, too.
State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, was among the elected officials attending the event. In brief remarks, she summed up how many in the crowd felt about the giveaway.
"We all need someone to lean on," Sente said.
Whittington had been driving a 2001 Hyundai, but he'd sunk a lot of money into it and it was unreliable.
He's raising his 13-year-old grandson, Jaden, and he said having a new vehicle will allow him to drive the teen to sports activities, doctors appointments and other destinations.
"This is what we need for our lives, for us to go further, together," Whittington said.