Feature, Local News

Grieving single father wins new car from Homewood Chevy Cares program

Four months ago, Willie Partee welcomed his son, Deandre, into the world, but within weeks, that happy experience was followed by a succession of heartbreaking experiences, starting with the sudden death of Deandre’s mother, who suffered an aneurism.

Almost at the same time, the Bellwood man’s car broke down and he lost his job. 

His aunt, Natosha Lee of Flossmoor, saw the Homewood Chevy Cares annual new car giveaway contest as an opportunity to help her nephew begin to recover from tragedy and setbacks. She nominated him to be this year’s recipient. 

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In a video posted online, Lee explained why she put Partee’s name forward.

“As a family unit we’re trying to support him any way we can,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be a blessing if he could win this car?’ I wanted to make sure he understood how much I care and that there are other people out here in the world that care as well.”

On Saturday, Dec. 24, Chevrolet of Homewood owner Steve Phillipos presented Partee with a new Chevrolet Spark in the eighth annual Christmas car giveaway. Lee expressed gratitude for the gift.

From left, Willie Partee and his son, Deandre; Partee’s aunt, Natosha Lee; Chevrolet of Homewood owner Steve Phillipos; and
last year’s Christmas car winner, Latoya Glover. Phillipos is presenting this year’s car to Partee at an event Saturday, Dec. 24.
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

“It’s such a blessing for us to be here and for Homewood Chevrolet to have selected him. We are so appreciative of all the support,” she said.

Willie Partee gives his young son, Deandre, a chance to take the
wheel of the car Partee received from the Homewood Chevy
Cares program. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Partee, holding Deandre, also expressed delight and gratitude for the independence and opportunities the new car would afford him. He said he even had a job interview lined up for next week, and getting there would be much easier with his new car. 

As important as the car is to him, Partee said it meant more to him to have his story noticed.

“It’s a miracle. It’s something that’s life changing,” he said. “It’s more than just a car. It’s people hearing my story. I feel like I’m not alone.”

He said he hoped his story would also provide solace to other single parents in the area, letting them know that people do care about the challenges they face.

In addition to the car and sales tax paid for by the dealership, Partee received a gift card from one of the other five finalists in the contest and a gas card from Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld, a gesture he makes every year.

Last year’s car recipient, Latoya Glover, was on hand, too, to show her support for Partee and to report on the difference the free car made in her life. 

“Big things have happened,” she said. “I got a job in the city as a dental assistant … which I would not be able to get to if I didn’t have a good running car. I’m in school to get my certification. I’ll be getting married later on this year. And I have a dog, and she loves being in the car.”

But the benefits are not just for her, she said, noting that she’s trying to “pay it forward.” With the car, “I’m able to be there for people.”

For Phillipos, the ripples of kindess spreading from the car gift is the whole point of the program.

“At Chevrolet of Homewood, we believe in miracles,” he said.

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