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New Port Richey Maaco Auto Body Shop owner Beth Berger, right, surprised customer Lorelei Melfi, left, by providing repairs and a new paint job free of charge.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Lorelei Melfi thought she found the best deal she could this spring while shopping around for much-needed car repairs.

Her Hyundai is Melfi’s sole form of transportation and a previous accident caused exterior damage that needed to be addressed. Melfi, a pastor at Hudson’s Community of Consciousness Church, also uses the car to support parishioners and community members in need by driving them to get groceries, visit the doctor or complete any other necessary task.

“Whatever needs to happen I’m always there for anybody,” Melfi said during a phone conversation last week.

Living on a budget that’s grown tighter during the COVID-19 pandemic, Melfi called various repair businesses for estimates, including the Maaco Auto Body Shop on U.S. Highway 19 in New Port Richey. During the estimate process, Melfi spoke with the franchise’s owner, Beth Berger, about the needed repairs, her financial situation, the loss of both her son and partner within the last two years, and her work in the community.

Following a few conversations, Berger and Maaco staffers decided Melfi was an ideal candidate for a “summer surprise.”

“Lorelei came in for an estimate on a paint job and we were moved by her story,” Berger stated in a news release.

The surprise, a Maaco gift initiative that rewards deserving customers at shops around the nation, was substantial, Melfi said.

“They told me they were going to work with me and not to worry and they’d keep it within my budget,” she said. But rather than determining a finance plan for the roughly $1,700 repair and paint bill on the day work was finished, the Hudson pastor drove off not a penny lighter.

“They took great care of me,” Melfi said of Berger and Maaco. “I was so blessed that day. I could not believe it; it was just overwhelming.”

Said Berger, “We are proud of everything Lorelei continues to do for our community and her resilience has truly been an inspiration to us all.”