Winter Garden community rallies behind single mom

On Christmas Eve, her only car — and means of work — was repossessed. A few weeks later, single mom Noemi Morales has been blessed by West Orange’s generosity.

Community members, including Mercedes Masih-Das, of Daniel’s Cheesesteak House; Tiki and Jamie Persaud, of Main Street Collision; Vish Baijnauth, of V Tech IT Services; and Winter Garden City Commissioner Ron Mueller, have supported the Morales family.
Community members, including Mercedes Masih-Das, of Daniel’s Cheesesteak House; Tiki and Jamie Persaud, of Main Street Collision; Vish Baijnauth, of V Tech IT Services; and Winter Garden City Commissioner Ron Mueller, have supported the Morales family.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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While most families were celebrating the holidays with cookies, cocoa and cheer, single mom Noemi Morales was having one of the hardest days of her life.

Morales, who has lived in Winter Garden since 2017, awoke Christmas Eve morning to discover her car had been repossessed.

Morales, a mother of three children — Anaiya, 16; Jovani, 12; and Exavier, 6 — relied on the car to support her income by driving patients to their medical appointments. 

“Life, as unpredictable as it is, has thrown us into a whirlwind of challenges,” Morales writes on the family’s GoFundMe. “I’ve dedicated my life to not only raising my children but also serving our community by driving sick people to their medical appointments — a job that filled my heart with purpose. However, the harsh tides of fate have left us in dire straits. This past Christmas Eve, in a moment that felt like the world was crumbling under our feet, our only car was repossessed. This wasn’t just a vehicle; it was our lifeline — the means by which I provided for my family and served those in need. The loss of our car was more than a financial blow; it was a strike at the core of our independence and hope. Now, months behind on rent and without a means to earn a living, the shadows of uncertainty loom over us. The burden of past-due bills and the fear of losing our home are realities that my children and I face every day.”


On Dec. 21, Winter Garden City Commissioner Ron Mueller posted on the Winter Garden Rants, Raves and Reviews Facebook page encouraging residents to help out those in need during the holiday season.

“Christmas, in its purest form, is a time of gathering, of love and of reflection,” he wrote. “It’s a moment to cherish the warmth of family and friends, to revel in the laughter and joy that fill our homes. But, as your commissioner, I invite you to think beyond the comfort of your immediate circle. This Christmas, let’s extend our hands and hearts to those who might be spending the season in despair — the lonely, the less fortunate, the unhoused and those in dire need. Let the spirit of Christmas, the teachings of your faith, the guidance of God and the compassion of our humanity move us, even if it’s uncomfortable, to offer comfort to others. … This Christmas, I urge you to look deep within your hearts. Find peace, trust and that special place where love for your neighbor resides.”

Through the post, Mueller became aware of the Morales family. With the loss of her only means of income, Morales and her children were in desperate need of food, clothing and basic necessities.

Mueller reached out to the community again.

“Her situation is critical, and as a compassionate community, we have the power to make a difference,” Mueller wrote. “Let’s come together to support Noemi and her children and bring some light to their lives in these challenging moments. Your generosity can make a significant impact on a family in our community.”

The post had an overwhelming response from Winter Garden. Community members and local businesses sent gift cards, food, clothes, toys and more. 

Morales created a GoFundMe account for those who wanted to donate money.

In the midst of the storm, a ray of hope appeared.

“It means the world to me to know that my community of Winter Garden has joined hands in helping my kids and (me),” Morales said. “We are beyond grateful for all the help we received and for Commissioner Ron Mueller for sharing my story. Also, for those that couldn’t help but kept my family in their prayers. But above all, I thank God for hearing my prayers and touching the hearts of those in Winter Garden. I am honored to call Winter Garden my home.”

The Morales family — Anaiya, 16; Noemi; Jovani, 12; and Exavier, 6 — have recieved a new car from Main Street Collision, as well as gift cards, food, clothes, toys and more. However, the family is still in need of community support.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes


Jamie Persaud, co-owner of Main Street Collision with his father, Tiki, felt compelled to help. He took a vehicle he owned at his auto repair shop, fixed it up and donated it to Morales on Thursday, Jan. 4.

Originally from New York, Persaud and his family moved to Florida about 20 years ago. This year, Main Street Collision is celebrating 14 years in the Winter Garden community. 

“Years ago, we were kind of in a situation like this where we lost our car and stuff like that,” Persaud said. “We’re at a position now where we can help out in the community, and we wanted to give what we could.”

The Morales family recieved a white 2010 Toyota Corolla with a full tank of gas.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes

The white 2010 Toyota Corolla came with a full tank of gas for the Morales family. 

“Having this car is such a blessing,” Morales said. “Financially, I am able to save money as now I don’t have a monthly payment to stress over. Physically, because I can continue serving my community and get back to work driving my patients to their medical appointments. It truly is a blessing!”

Vish Baijnauth, with V Tech IT Services, also heard about the Morales’ situation and paid for the registration for their new car.

“When I heard the story of a single mom of three going through some tough times, I felt compelled to do something,” he said. “Helping members of our community and making a meaningful impact on the lives of those in need has always been important to me. I understand the feeling of going through challenging times, but I was able to get through it with support from my family and friends. … I wanted to alleviate some of the financial burden that comes with a new car. Although she is a stranger to me, I can tell just from a small conversation with her that she is working extremely hard to provide for her children. She deserves to feel the happiness and independence that comes with a new vehicle, not the stress of figuring out minor issues like registering it. I am glad that with this donation from Jamie and I, she can continue to focus on what truly matters — herself and her family.”

The owners of Daniels’ Cheesesteak House — Harold and Mercedes Masih-Das, as well as their three children, Frankie Liz, Daniel and Brian Masih-Das — filled the trunk with groceries.

“Winter Garden has been the community that embraced us with open arms when we first moved here over 30 years ago,” the family said. “How do you not take care of the very people that are the reason for the success of your small business? We have made so many lifelong friendships and have met so many wonderful people through out the years. We love our community and consider them family.”

Mueller said the act was a powerful testament to the spirit and heart of Winter Garden.

“When I called upon our residents to reach out to those in need, the response was a profound demonstration of our core values,” he said. “Our recent collective effort to support Noemi Morales and her family is not just an act of charity; it is a reflection of our shared ethos. In Winter Garden, our compassion is our strength; our unity is our pride. We are more than residents; we are guardians of each other’s well-being, champions of each other’s dreams. It’s this spirit of guardianship and championship that drove us to act in unison to provide for a family facing hardship. … In Winter Garden, we choose kindness, we choose community, we choose to stand together. … We are a community that doesn’t just talk about values — we live them. We are a community that doesn’t just dream of a better world — we build it, one act of kindness at a time. Let us continue to be the community where everyone matters, where every act of kindness counts and where, together, we build a future that’s bright for all.”

On the GoFundMe, Morales said the act of kindness has rekindled a flame of hope in the family’s hearts. However, she said the journey to stability is still fraught with challenges. 

The mounting costs of insurance, utility bills and overdue rent are mountains the family has yet to climb. 

“In sharing our story, I extend a humble plea for your help,” she wrote. “Any contribution, no matter how small, can be a stepping stone towards regaining our footing. Your generosity is not just a donation; it’s a lifeline that will help us rise from these hardships and rebuild a stable, secure life for my children. Your support today is more than just financial aid; it’s a testament to the power of community and the boundless strength of human kindness. I am eternally grateful for your consideration and promise that, in the future, I will pay this kindness forward. As we often say, ‘Today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you.’ Thank you for being a beacon of hope in our lives and for taking the time to embrace our story. Your help is not just a gift; it’s a blessing that will echo in our hearts forever.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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