Recycled Rides Provides Holiday Lift

The National Auto Body Council is moving into the fifth year of its Recycled Rides program, an industry-wide effort to put vehicles into the hands of people in …

The National Auto Body Council is moving into the fifth year of its Recycled Rides program, an industry-wide effort to put vehicles into the hands of people in need. Insurance companies like Allstate and State Farm provide damaged cars that are then refurbished and given away by participating auto body shops around the nation. The program now has 125 participating body shops that will give away 150 cars this year. Participants say they are moved by the stories of the people they are helping and that the project brings people together in the workplace for a common cause during the holidays.  For more on this continue reading the following article from TheStreet.

As families gather around the dining table to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, many of us will be asked to share what we’re thankful for. The usual answers include things like family, friends and good food.

But a few households will be giving thanks for a life-altering gift: a new car. On the Monday before Thanksgiving, workers at auto body shops across the country will be handing over refurbished vehicles to people in need, people for whom having that car means the difference between supporting a family and falling into poverty. It’s a great example of how small companies can have a meaningful impact in their communities.

The Recycled Rides program was started five years by the National Auto Body Council. That first year there were only a handful of donations; this coming Monday, 150 cars will be given away by 125 participating auto body shops.

The program brings together a number of interrelated businesses: Large insurance companies such as State Farm and Allstate(ALL) provide most of the cars (usually ones that have been written off after an accident); next, the vehicles are fixed up at body shops, which range from small, family-run businesses to chains such as Sterling Autobody. Suppliers, many of them also small businesses, donate the necessary parts and paint, along with corporate partners.

“It’s a combined effort by everyone in the industry,” says Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the National Auto Body Council. “The beauty of it is that by doing just a little bit more of what we already do, fixing one extra car, we can make a huge difference.”

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In the United States, especially outside major cities, having a car is a necessity, not a luxury. If you have your own transportation, you can drive to work, get your children to the doctor quickly when they’re sick and comparison-shop for the best deals on groceries. But buying a car can be beyond reach for a family living paycheck to paycheck, and that makes every other aspect of daily life more difficult.

Sulkaka says it’s the human stories that motivate National Auto Body Council members to donate their time. “One woman who received a car was a single mom with an RN degree, but she had to turn down five different jobs because she couldn’t get there,” he says. “Others had to walk a mile or more to a bus stop to get to work. One woman with cancer had to ride a bus two hours each way to get to her chemotherapy appointments.” For every single one of these people, getting a car meant an immediate, dramatic improvement in their quality of life.

Part of what makes the program so empowering for individual businesses is the sense of camaraderie it creates in the workplace, with everyone coming together to meet a common goal. At the same time, it enhances the image of the business in the community as a place that cares about and supports those who are struggling.

There are countless ways other small businesses can give a charitable spin to their everyday routine. Restaurants, for example, can donate unused items to local food banks or compost food scraps for use in a community garden. Accounting firms can give their employees time off to work at a free tax clinic for seniors or veterans.

Taking on such a project should be an action of joint sacrifice: A supplier should be willing to take a loss on donated parts, just as technicians should do their work on the donated car while off the clock; it doesn’t have the same impact if the boss simply pays everyone to work on the charity project, as if it were part of their everyday routine.

“When people give of themselves, it becomes real,” Sulkaka says. “They become part of the gift.” He recommends that shop owners let their employees hand over the car keys, to help them take ownership of what they’ve accomplished.

“A lot of people don’t have extra money to give to a charity,” Sulkaka says. “But over the past five years, as the Recycled Rides program has grown, we’ve found that people do have time. They do have extra parts. All it means it taking a little bit more of what you already have, and doing a little bit more of what you’re already doing.”

Helping the less fortunate this holiday season doesn’t always come down to writing a check. It can also mean helping those you are most able to help, through your particular talents. Match the expertise and contacts of your particular business to a specific need, and you’ll find that charitable giving may be more attainable than you thought.

Then, at the Thanksgiving table, you can be thankful that you’ve found a way to give back.

This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.

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