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St. Croix veteran receives car donation

Veteran Eric Grant, of Somerset, receives the keys to his new car from Laura Jacobson of Heppner’s Auto Body on Monday, Nov. 12 in Hudson. Heppner’s Auto Body, with support from several other businesses and organizations including USAA, donated the repaired and refinished vehicle to Grant. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
U.S. Army veteran Eric Grant, along with his dog Diego, check out his new ride he received Monday, Nov. 12 at Heppner’s Rivercity Collision shop in Hudson. Grant served in the U.S. Army for seven years. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

With the exchange of keys, the vehicle hummed to life, bringing a new resource to U.S. Army veteran Eric Grant, and his four-legged co-pilot, Diego.

Grant, now a Somerset resident, was the recipient of a refurbished, donated vehicle from Heppner's Auto Body through the National Auto Body Council Recycled Rides Program.

Grant said he was shocked to learn he would be receiving the car, and by how quickly the process went.

"This is going to be great because I can get around a lot easier," Grant said.

He saw the car for the first time during a presentation on Monday, Nov. 11 at the Heppner's Rivercity Collision shop in Hudson.

"I love it. I love the color," Grant said of the red 2016 Ford Focus.

The donations are intended to help ease the burden of returning to civilian life.

"Thank you Eric and to all the veterans here for your service," said Laura Jacobson of Heppner's Auto Body during Monday's presentation, the day after Veterans Day.

Heppner's Marketing Director Amy Anderson said the company thinks veterans are an underserved group.

"If we can help a veteran out kind of one car at a time," she said. "We want to do something for that group of people."

Grant joined the Army in 1997, being stationed in New York, Panama, North Carolina and Kosovo before he finished active service in 2004. He then joined the U.S. Army Reserves and was deployed to Iraq in 2009, planning civilian medical evaluations and helping out with recon missions and security.

Grant's new vehicle came from a salvage yard in Portage, and met the qualifications on age, less than 100,000 miles and no airbag deployment, Anderson said.

It was repaired and repainted by workers of the Hudson Heppner's Rivercity Collision shop.

Heppner's worked with United States Automobile Association (USAA) and St. Croix County Veterans Service Office to identify Grant as the recipient.

Grant said he was grateful to Heppner's and all the organizations who donated time, money and parts to the project, as well as his Veterans Service Officer Phillip Landgraf.

Many of those who played a role were there to see Grant receive the keys and shake his hand.

"So many individuals that actually worked on it," Grant said. "Thank you to all the people that are part of it."

Heppner's has made two other donations like this, one this year in Woodbury and another last year at its Midway location.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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