Hyundai Salute to Heroes honors Chicopee woman with new Tucson

After a summer of submissions, the local Hyundai dealer’s ‘Salute to Heroes’ initiative came to an end with a special surprise on Tuesday.
Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - After a summer of submissions, the local Hyundai dealer’s ‘Salute to Heroes’ initiative came to an end with a special surprise on Tuesday. One western Massachusetts resident received a new Tucson as a thank you for their generosity.

On Tuesday, Jess Miller woke up knowing she had a media appearance for what she thought was going to build momentum for her nonprofit dedicated to children. Instead, she was on the receiving end of a wild new ride.

“When I got out of the car, I thought I was here for a press release for Clinical and Support Options and then I saw my friend, Linda, who works with us and then I saw Heather, who works with us, who’s a teacher and should be working right now, and then I saw Paula and her sister and then I saw a friend of mine, Linda Belt, a comedian, and I was like ‘Something’s not…this is weird,’” Miller said.

Miller was the winner of this year’s Hyundai ‘Salute to Heroes’ contest, which means she went home with a brand-new Hyundai Tucson, thanks to the Western Massachusetts Hyundai Dealers.

“The car thing is like…wow…wow,” Miller added.

Miller’s name and a reasons why she deserved to win was submitted by longtime friend, Allison Weissman.

“There’s actually so much Jess has done over the last twelve years with me, by herself, helping other organizations, helping my organization, but it all started from a dream she had to help foster and adopt kids in western Mass.,” Weissman said.

The veteran, turned comedian, turned philanthropist said she uses her gift of comedy to fuel her mission.

“I’ve always been of the mindset of ‘If you give back, that’s a good thing, but if you combine it with something as powerful as laughter, then that’s a great thing,’” Miller explained.

However, winning the vehicle provides a lifestyle change that’s no joke for her family. Miller told Western Mass News that she and her wife have been sharing one vehicle for years now.

“Everything that she does, she gives back,” Weissman added. “It’s amazing, she would never want anything…she never asks for anything.”

That is what really spoke to the Western Massachusetts Hyundai Dealers.

“She’s perfect, she gives back, never thinks about herself, so she’s constantly doing fundraising for people that are in need or children that don’t have toys for Christmas, so it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person,” said Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai.

Out of hundreds of applications, Miller’s understandably stood out to the three Hyundai dealers in our area. “She’s done a lot for community and she deserves a car, so it’s awesome,” said Mike Paquette with Country Hyundai.

“It’s a reward of the business that we’re in, to give back to somebody like Jess. She checked all the boxes for a hero, so how unbelievable to give her a car,” said Brian Houser with Balise Hyundai.

For Miller, winning Tuesday just added fuel to her philanthropic fire.

“I think, if we’re all putting good out into the world, good comes back,” Miller said.