Monday, 31 October 2005 17:00

Collision industry steps up to help hurricane victims

Written by Karyn Hendricks

"You can't even imagine how devastating it is down here," reported Todd Hoffman from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hoffman, a Texas-based I-CAR instructor who is spear-heading an effort to get tools to body shop technicians affected by the Gulf hurricanes, continued, "Pictures don't come close to showing the devastation that has taken place. There is destruction everywhere. 

"But the good news is that shops are trying to reopen. We are here distributing tools and equipment collected through toolsfortechs.org to the Bay St. Louis and Waveland areas, which were among the areas most hard hit."

Members of the industry are stepping up to help. Tool donations have been pouring in. The most requested items can be found under "donations" on the Tools for Techs website.

A new need has emerged: shipping costs. There are some major equipment items such as paint booths and frame machines that need to be transported from one end of the country to the Gulf. Cash donations are being accepted for this purpose.

Hoffman pointed out that all donations go 100% to the rebuilding effort. There are no overhead or administrative charges whatsoever.

"Our goal is a bit different from some of the other relief organizations. We want to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. Many victims of the hurricanes do not want to leave their homes. We give tools to help people get back to work. Relocation is not our focus. We want to continue to support the collision industry on the Gulf Coast."

Going shop to shop

Hoffman is basically going door-to- door as there are places that still have no electricity. One owner was thrilled that he would have a telephone in January. But people are doing whatever it takes to get back to work. Employees are even working for free to help get shops reopened. People want to get back to work.

"So we have reached out to local people to let them know that help is available. Now that we have personally talked with folks, we have a better idea of what they need. I walked up to a business where the roof, and the walls were all blown out. Still the owner was working on cars in the driveway to accommodate his customers. We gave him tools, toolboxes and floor jacks so he could get back to work."

His gratitude in receiving the equipment was eclipsed by the surge of emotion felt by Hoffman and his colleagues at giving technicians the tools to rebuild their lives. Trite as it may seem, giving really can be better than receiving.

It is easy to think that things should be back to normal now. After all, the horrific images have disappeared from the television screen. Who can imagine a catastrophe so great that normalcy may never be restored?

"Bigger problems will face us after the first of the year," continued Hoffman. "The FEMA money will be gone and governmental benefits will begin to run out. Technicians will be desperate for the equipment they need to get back to work. About 3,000 technicians are in dire need of tools. Our goal is to equip them all.

"If every mechanic sent us one tool from their tool box, and everyone that uses the services of a technician sent us a small donation, we could have every one of these hurricane victims back to work in just weeks."

Give the shirt off your back

In conjunction with Tools for Techs, Hoffman has started another effort called "Shirt Off Your Back." Companies that do not have tools can do their part by donating caps, t-shirts and jackets with their company logos to the hurricane survivors who left home on a balmy fall day and now have to face winter without proper gear. Information about this program and other ways to help are available at www.toolsfortechs.org.

Hoffman concluded: "We are trying to show that the victims of the hurricanes are not alone. We are standing with them in the rebuilding process. Our message is: we've got you covered."

Remember the kids

In California, Los Angeles I-CAR Chairman Toby Chess is conducting a Christmas toy drive for the children whose families have lost everything in the disaster. "The major relief organizations will take care of the essentials, but when Christmas rolls around, we want to make sure those kids aren't wondering why Santa forgot them," said Chess, who last year organized a successful toy drive for victims of the California wildfires. To help, contact Chess at tcspeedster@yahoo.com.

Collision Industry Relief

The Collision Industry Relief Effort continues to receive offers of employment and/or housing for fellow collision repair families that have been affected by the hurricanes. More importantly, the effort has already begun to receive requests for assistance from those who were left homeless or jobless in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In addition, the fund has also received generous cash donations and commitments to raise money specifically for the effort. Dupont has announced an initiative to raise $250,000 and the Collision Industry Advancement Initiative created by Akzo Nobel made a $50,000 donation at the Collision Industry Conference meeting in San Francisco in September.

Watching as hundreds of individuals came together to donate their time and money to make this suggestion a reality was declared gratifying. In just over a month the NABC and CIF, with the help of ASA, SCRS and AASP, and several key industry people came together to make sure the resources would be in place for this effort. It speaks volumes about the true nature and quality of the people in the collision industry.

Six Relocation Specialists have been working with those families who have asked for assistance in find a place to live.

For more information on how to contribute to this cause, visit www.collisionindustryrelief.com.

 

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