This is Felicia Gaffney’s story. It is a story, or a lesson rather, in compassion, and how one act of kindness can change someone’s life. It is also about letting people lift you up when you need it and in turn lifting up others when you can.
Felicia, born in Auburndale, is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Lakeland. She previously spent 10 years working a corporate medical device job where she traveled nationally and had a global team.
During her foray into real estate, she spent 2 years teaching full-time math for college readiness at Tenoroc High School. She is married with two sons and a bonus son, ages 19, 16, and 14. She and her family love spending time together going to the mountains, hiking, taking trips to the beach, and fishing and kayaking at their new home on the lake.
A beautiful, well put together woman with a soft voice and kind eyes, Felicia says, “I’ve overcome a lot of tremendous challenges personally as a child and an adult. A lot of people don’t guess that when they meet me or talk to me or look at me.” She continued, “I know that life can get extremely difficult. None of us get away from that, as much as we’d love to get up every day and love be perfect, kids be perfect, life be perfect, job be perfect, it seems like we’re almost fighting obstacles on a daily basis.”
Though she herself had a challenging life, spending 10 years single, raising her boys, she has always felt she had a specific purpose. “I always felt like my calling was to give people cars.”
With faith as a driving force behind her compassion, she knew that the gift of a car to someone could make all the difference in their life and help them to overcome difficulties. Whether it be a bad relationship, drugs, lack of opportunity, or any other challenge, having transportation could be the thing to change someone’s situation.
Felicia got remarried a few years ago and she and her husband bought a house. Seeking her husband’s blessing, she talked to him about her plan, explaining that it is a commitment that she made and wanted to keep and that they had the funds to do so. He agreed.
Felicia didn’t want to choose someone. She didn’t want to profile people and make judgments on their lives. She needed help. The same week of speaking to her husband, Felicia and a girlfriend stopped at a little restaurant in Auburndale for dinner. She noticed a waitress that she’s seen around for years at different restaurants in town.
Felicia mentioned to the waitress that she hadn’t seen her in a while. “She explained that she had been out of work for a year because she had suffered severe burns,” said Gaffney. According to Felicia, the woman, her mom, and her daughter had been cooking in the kitchen with a pressure cooker. It didn’t release any pressure and exploded on all three of them with the waitress taking the brunt of the explosion.
The waitress, a single mother with 4 children told Felicia that while she was healing from her burns, “She was praying to just die, she said the pain was so intense.”
While talking to her, Felicia asked, “How did you do it? How did you make it?” The woman responded, “I didn’t. I lost my house, I was out of work for a year, and I lost my car.”
Tears welled up in her eyes remembering the moment, “It’s just amazing how clear things become to you when you ask.”
She didn’t say anything to her that night, but went home and called her good friend and mechanic to tell him her vision.
“Everything fell into place,” smiled Felicia. The mechanic had a car that he could have ready in just a few weeks.
After waiting a few weeks, Felicia got permission from the woman’s boss to sit down and talk with her. She told the woman what she wanted to do. In a powerful moment of perspective, Felicia described the woman’s reaction, “She was just extremely grateful and do you know what she said? ‘Now I can get a second job.’”
“I think too, I can relate a little bit more having been a single mom as long as I had been and knowing how hard it can be,” she said.
She found out that even though the winter was cold this year, the woman was riding her bike to and from work. Felicia said, “She shouldn’t have to do that. She raised beautiful children, she’s a beautiful person, very sweet. I don’t think anyone at her age who’s worked as hard as she’s worked to get where she’s at should have to ride her bike to work in the rain or the cold in the morning.” And now she doesn’t.
Looking forward with a giving heart, Felicia is already looking for the next opportunity to gift someone a car, saying that her goal starting out was to donate one car for every 5 homes she sold. Ultimately, she would like to start a not for profit, saying, “Hopefully, my thought is, that doing the not for profit will open the door so that if others do want to contribute, whether it’s a car, whether its funds, they can. I plan on it being 100%. I don’t want anything from this.”
Frank Bazail, the managing broker at Coldwell in Lakeland expressed that as an outsider looking into the situation, anybody can take their money and decide to go on vacation, buy themselves a new car, or go on a shopping spree but, “She decided to put herself in somebody else’s shoes.”
He reflected on the physical and emotional pain the woman was healing from and said, “For Felicia to do that, I think it empowered this woman to be able to feel better about herself.” He continued, “I think it’s a domino effect that now she’s seen that somebody cares, so God willing when she gets to a point in her life where she can do something like that, she will.”
Felicia concurred with Frank, “I know in my life the small acts of kindness that people have done to help me or encourage me have probably been the biggest acts of kindness that I recall.”
Felicia’s finishing thought was simple but poignant, “You don’t have to do a grand gesture that affects the entire world to do something good. If everybody does a little bit, it’s that little bit that makes the big picture better.”
Pay someone a compliment, pay for someone’s groceries, or just pay them attention and let them know someone cares. Just, pay it forward