A feeling of complete devastation overcame Anna Asenova Hastings as she searched the Utah Valley University parking lot where she had left her Honda Civic one August day. Her car was gone -- stolen. Her textbooks, the library books she'd borrowed and her daughter's special box of trinkets and personal collection items were lost.
On Thursday, thanks to members of the UVU Center for the Advancement of Leadership advisory board and the aviation science advisory board, Hastings got an early Christmas gift -- the keys to a Kia Sedona minivan.
"In a way I felt violated," Hastings remembered of that day. She also remembered how her little girl felt when she found out her precious collection was gone. She felt totally alone.
Hastings was born in Bulgaria and lived in Cypress for a time. She moved to the United States in 1999 as a young bride, then found herself in challenging circumstances when her marriage ended and she became a single mom with a little girl, far away from her roots.
Hastings, a UVU senior, said she has always believed that education is the key to opening doors of opportunity and has used many areas at UVU to help her, including the Women's Success Center. While life has thrown her a few curves, it helped to have her parents move to the United States to help her. They have been sharing their car so she can get to and from class.
After receiving the keys Hastings said, "I feel that I'm not alone. I'm speechless and overwhelmed. I cannot get the words. I am very grateful, and I will remember this day for always."
Dave Adams, a member of the aviation board and owner of Adams G/3 Collision Repair, was looking for a family who needed a car; it's a Christmas project he has had for the last 28 years. About the same time Adams was looking, Jeff Kahn, chairman of both advisory boards, came to Adams's shop to ask for help with a Christmas project. It was a serendipitous moment.
"The reason I do this is because I was raised by a single mom, and I remember her doing the best she could driving her kids around in an old, unreliable, bumpy Rambler," Adams said. "I saw her suffer horribly. Now that I can, I want to ease that suffering for a needy mom every year."
Along with Adams's help, Hastings received six months of auto insurance from American Family Insurance.
A second UVU student and single mom, Rebecca Mo'unga, was the recipient of Sub for Santa help from the leadership and aviation science advisory boards.
Mo'unga came to UVU on a journey of healing and commitment to turn her life around. She had endured painful, damaging experiences, including witnessing the suicide of her husband.
On Oct. 15 Mo'unga lost her footing and fell more than 90 feet from Bridal Veil Falls trail. She says her survival is nothing short of a miracle as she smashed her feet and ankles, suffered fractures, a broken back and multiple scrapes and bruises on her head and body. She had been hiking alone and lay there for close to two hours before she was discovered and taken by medical helicopter off the mountain.
"I appreciate everyone's hospitality," Mo'unga said. "It's not like me to get into the Christmas spirit. But I can say I am in it this year. I am grateful and I am excited to be able to continue my education."
During Thursday's presentation at The Chef's Table in Orem, Mo'unga was given more that $1,000 in Christmas gifts for herself and three children, something she would never be able to do.
Mo'unga is still in a wheelchair and is involved in an extensive recovery process from her fall. She is a junior at UVU and has received help from the Women's Success Center at the university.