The five vehicles were presented to worthy recipients during the two-day NACE | CARS Conference & Expo in Anaheim, CA during two separate presentations on August 11 and 12.
Recycled Rides is a national program in which collision industry companies team up to repair and donate vehicles to individuals in need. The families were nominated by non-profit charitable organizations in the southern California area. Since the inception of Recycled Rides in 2007, more than 1,500 vehicles valued at over $12 million have been donated across the country.
NABC National Director Chuck Sulkala, who has been emceeing car giveaway presentations through the Recycled Rides program since day one, once again opened the ceremony with some remarks. "We have lot of heroes in this industry and a lot them are here today," Sulkala said. "The gift of transportation empowers and motivates our recipients and gives them a fighting chance in life. Recycled Rides has given us a great eight-year run and it is gaining momentum all the time. Body shops and their technicians and the insurance companies contact us all the time and say, 'Hey, how can we get involved?' And we show them the way because giving back is so satisfying. Just look at those smiles!"
The five recipients of this year's 2016 NABC Recycled Rides at NACE | CARS Conference & Expo included:
Travis Steele was an Army reservist living in Arizona who was called back in 2015 to active duty in Ventura. With California housing costs completely out of reach for the family, his wife and four children (and one due in September) stayed behind in Arizona. When his old car broke down and repairing it would cost more than the value of the vehicle, his ability to visit his family was hampered significantly. Nominated by Support The Enlisted Project (STEP), Steele received a 2013 Dodge Caravan donated by Insurance Auto Auctions and repaired by Pacific Elite Collision in Torrance, CA.
Steele's completely refurbished van will immediately improve his life in many ways, he explained. "It is pretty amazing to know that the people at Insurance Auto Auctions and Pacific Elite Collision gave us this vehicle. They did not know us, but yet they are willing to do such a compassionate thing for us--I'm speechless."
John Munoz, an Army veteran, had a 10-year-career at McDonnell Douglas until he broke his back, leaving him unable to work and depleting his savings. His car had become his home until it was stolen while he was in the hospital. Nominated by the U.S. Veterans Initiative, Munoz received a 2014 Nissan Sentra donated by Hertz, repaired by MAACO of Lake Forest, CA.
Munoz could not stop smiling while he sat in his Sentra. "Wow, what a gift," he said. "If you had told me a year ago that someone would give me a beautiful car, I would have said, 'No way.' I've had some bad luck, but this will help me so much, I can't even tell you."
Lisseth Lopez, a single mother and home health care provider, is devoted to raising her 15-year-old daughter, who is an outstanding student. Lopez can now get rid of her unreliable 2001 Nissan Pathfinder with 300,000 plus miles on it. She was nominated by Family Promise South Bay and received a 2013 Honda Accord donated by State Farm and refurbished by Platinum Collision Centers in Los Angeles.
Frederick Lewis, a Marine veteran, suffers literally every day from disabilities related to his years as a mortar, ammunitions and gunner specialist. He currently endures two-hour bus rides from Santa Ana to the VA Hospital in Long Beach and has been told he needs to increase treatment up to five times a week. Nominated by the U.S. Veterans Initiative, Lewis received a 2012 Mazda S donated by GEICO and repaired by Fix Auto of Tustin, CA.
"This car will save me so much time; you can't understand the impact of this car," Lewis said. "People don't know what it means not to have reliable transportation until you lose it. Oh yes--I am going to pay this kind gesture forward--count on it."
Destiny Bracamonte, a single mother holding down two jobs to support her family, is always on the road, taking her children to school and to their other activities. Her current tired vehicle breaks down often and is highly unreliable, so now she can say goodbye to it forever. She was nominated by The Sheepfold and received a 2011 Honda Accord donated by Allstate and repaired by Service King of Placentia.