Paying it forward pays off for UMES student

  • Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Calvin Garrison with the car he won from Delaware Auto ExchangePRINCESS ANNE, MD - (Feb. 12, 2015) - Calvin Garrison used to drive a 1994 Dodge Spirit 35 miles from his Berlin home to UMES, where he is a dean's list student majoring in business administration. 

    Before Thanksgiving, the car's engine gave up, putting his anticipated graduation in 2016 in jeopardy. Replacing a costly motor was not in Calvin's modest budget.

    Marcella Whaley arranged for her son to use another vehicle temporarily so he could complete the fall semester. Calvin went into the holiday break from classes unsure if he would return for spring classes.

    Whaley discreetly entered his name in a holiday season contest sponsored by Delaware Auto Exchange in Felton. The owners had inaugurated a social media campaign to find a motorist who desperately needed transportation.

    The contest attracted more than 1,500 applications, according to C.J. Faison, one of the auction's owners and a former racecar driver.

    "We read every one of them," Faison said.

    Calvin and his mother visited the car auction Jan. 3 under the pretense of doing research on what a vehicle might cost. To Calvin's surprise, the owners announced he was the winner of a pristine 2002 Hyundai Sonata.

    "I have a wonderful mother," Calvin, 20, said. "At first, I didn't believe it."

    The gift of a car to help a college student stay in school is compelling, but there's more to the story. Since his days at Stephen Decatur High School, Calvin has been devoted to doing volunteer work.

    "He does so much. His mother did a terrific job describing what a terrific person Calvin is," Faison said. "It was hard not to pick someone like that."

    At UMES, Calvin contributed 300 hours of volunteer work through the university's AmeriCorps program. Much of that effort was working as a mentor and tutor in an after-school program at the Garland Hayward Youth Center in Princess Anne, where the building's namesake knows Calvin well.

    "He's a conscientious person who works hard," Hayward said. "He's a good role model. I think he's very deserving of (the car) because of how much he gives of himself."

    Calvin was the student government president at Stephen Decatur High, where one of his favorite causes was promoting an anti-bullying campaign. He also spearheaded a campaign that generated a $3,000 donation to "Pennies for Patients," a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society cause.

    Outside of school, he has been a leader in the Berlin Youth Club and is a member of the Deliverance Family Worship Center in Salisbury, where fellow church members often rely on him for transportation.

    Those were among the highlights Faison and a small committee at the Delaware Auto Exchange said made Calvin's selection "a no-brainer for us."

    "We did this (give-away) because we wanted to see how it would change people's lives," Faison said. "The main goal was to find a deserving person. There are a lot of needy people out there."

    Calvin sat through a three-hour auction the day he was told he won the car so he could personally thank Faison's father, Ron.

    "That speaks to the kind of young man he is," C.J. Faison said. "Most people would have gotten the keys an