PLAINFIELD — Diana Benefiel has been down on her luck but says things are looking brighter now that she’s gotten a little help from a stranger.
Benefiel, a Plainfield resident, couldn’t get her vehicle started on Dec. 8 and thought it was a problem with her key.
“I asked my nephew if he could run me to Walmart to get a new key,” she said. “But he couldn’t because he had a lot of things to do with his family. He said maybe later in the day.”
Benefiel said she was worried that the automotive center could close early since it was Sunday so she walked from her home near Carr Road in the Town Center to Walmart at 2373 E. Main St.
When she arrived at the automotive center she met Walmart automotive technician Eric Pranger.
“She walked in and we found out her key has a chip in it and that she would have to go to a dealership to have it made,” he said. “I asked her if I could look at her car to make sure she needed a new one and that’s when I found out it wasn’t in the parking lot. She had walked in.”
He said he knew it would cost about $65 to get a new key.
“I was getting off work in 10 minutes so I told her I could give her a ride home,” Pranger said.
Benefiel said something about Pranger put her at ease and she felt it would be safe to trust him.
“He said he didn’t want me to walk home because it was so cold,” she said.
When they arrived at her home, he offered to take a look at the vehicle.
“I asked her for the key and checked it out,” Pranger said. “Turns out the steering wheel was just in a bind, so I fixed it. It saved her some money. She would have had it towed for no reason.”
Benefiel, 53, said she feels like God put the two of them together at just the right time.
“He’s just such a nice young man,” she said.
She lives in a small one-bedroom home that was built as a “mother-in-law’s quarters” behind another home in Plainfield.
“I love my little place,” she said. “But there was a time when I was living in my car.”
She said that was because she had to flee from her home due to a domestic violence situation that had been going on for more than 30 years. Pranger said she couldn’t stay in a shelter because she had her two dogs, Bentley and Joni, to look after.
“They mean the world to me,” she said. “I used my head and learned how to get showers and do laundry. We got through it.”
She said she did trust the wrong person one time while she was homeless and was sexually assaulted.
“I let my guard down once,” she said. “Recently, I took the RAD class and I loved it.”
Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) is a free self-defense course taught by officers from the Plainfield Police Department. She said taking the course has empowered her and has helped her to reach out to other sexual assault victims.
“I’m resourceful,” Benefiel said. “I know things will work out.”
She said not facing the large automotive bill on Sunday was a true blessing for her.
Pranger, 26, who is a single father with a 2-year-old, said his “good deed” did give him some good Karma.
“This is crazy, but on my way home I ran out of gas,” he said. “I was close enough to just coast right into the gas station.”
He said more good things have popped up this week.
“I have two vehicles, a car and a truck. One of my neighbors had busted out the windows in my car,” Pranger said. “I do cell phone repair to make some extra money. I found one stashed away. A guy came over for me to work on his phone and mentioned he was looking for the same phone I had just found. So now I have the money to get the new windshield.
“When I got up this morning I told myself I needed to make enough money to get that windshield replaced and now it looks like that’s going to happen,” he said.
Benefiel and Pranger said they plan to remain friends and check in on each other once in awhile.