On Sept. 2, Clay Morgan and Alyssa Ledgerwood, both in their early 20s, were passing through Moab along with their three young sons, Brandon, 5, Clay Jr., 4, and Bentley, 1, when their Chevy Tahoe, which had been experiencing problems, finally broke down for good near the Colorado River bridge north of town.
The family had driven nearly 1,500 miles and had another 1,300 miles left to go. A mechanic told them the vehicle needed a new transmission.
Morgan and Ledgerwood were currently between jobs, and had little to no spare cash or resources. Nearly all their worldly belongings were in their vehicle and the small trailer they were towing.
Ledgerwood said she first contacted a park ranger, who referred them to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, which referred her to Sara Melnicoff, a volunteer with the local Salvation Army chapter.
Melnicoff, who also operates the nonprofit organization Moab Solutions, said she began contacting people locally via phone calls and Facebook posts detailing the family’s plight. The response was swift and “almost overwhelming,” Melnicoff said.
As of Tuesday evening, Sept. 9, Melnicoff said she had collected more than $2,300 in donations on behalf of the family.
“Around 30 individuals have donated, including one man who gave $500,” Melnicoff said, adding that numerous local businesses have also chipped in, giving the couple food coupons, gift cards, and even the use of a rental car for the week. Arrangements were made to have the family stay at a local motel while they waited for their vehicle to be repaired.
A replacement transmission was found in Cedar City and was scheduled to be delivered to a Moab repair shop sometime on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at which point mechanics were to begin the eight-hour installation.
For Morgan and Ledgerwood, their first-ever visit to Moab has been a memorable one in many ways.
“I was in tears when I made those first few calls, but within the hour, we had help,” Ledgerwood said. “It was just amazing.”
“It was kind of scary when we first broke down,” added Morgan. “But everyone we have come into contact with has been so helpful.”
Morgan and Ledgerwood said they have been living in Louisiana for the past three and a half years, having moved there from Washington state, where they both grew up. They said they are looking forward to moving closer to family members and finding work in northwestern Washington. They have been in close contact with family members during their unplanned stay in Moab.
The couple said they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Moab community. “Everyone is so kind and caring,” said Ledgerwood. “We kept asking ourselves, Why? Why? But it really was like it was meant for us to break down here. We are so grateful, because it definitely could have been a lot worse.”
“We just want to thank everyone so much for everything they’ve done for us,” Ledgerwood added.
“I knew this would be a major assist,” said Melnicoff, adding that while the local Salvation Army often helps needy people in smaller ways, its resources are rather limited to handle major expenses, especially major automotive repairs. She said the community response to the Morgan family’s plight has been particularly heartwarming.
“There are a lot of beautiful things about this, and how it has united our community,” Melnicoff said. “We had generous donations from church groups and people from all walks of life. People are willing to pitch in and help when they know it is a legitimate cause.”
As of press time Wednesday, the family was still in Moab, but hopes were high that they would soon be on the road to Washington once again.
For more information on how to help or make a donation to the Salvation Army, contact Melnicoff at 435-259-0910.