Every year, the collision repair industry comes across cars that are “written off” by owners or insurance companies as total losses. The existence of these cars prompted Mike Rose to get involved in a National Benevolence Program, a community relations program that presents refurbished cars to deserving people or organizations during the holidays.
Several years ago, Mike’s Auto Body took this program to the next level, by giving away more cars and getting more insurance companies onboard, Contreras explained.
“This is a win-win for the entire industry, because everyone gets involved, including the insurance companies, the local Contra Costa Fire Department, the City of Concord and tons of vendors that contribute products, money or services. The whole community steps up and the program has gained more momentum every year.”
After receiving 150-200 letters every year in which applicants explain why they need a vehicle, only five are chosen, Contreras said. “It’s tough every year to pick the most deserving, because there are so many people out there who really need a car just to make a living and survive. We’ve received approximately 2,000 letters during the 12 years we’ve been doing this, and it’s always hard making these decisions. It’s also very emotional when we call the recipients to tell them they’re getting a car. To me, that is the most satisfying part.”
The five recipients of refurbished vehicles this year were:
Sam Utu, who has been a reservist in the California Army National Guard since 2004 and deployed twice—one tour in Iraq and once at Guantanamo Bay Cuba as a terrorist cell holding guard. After he and his wife lost their jobs, home and car, they had to move into a family homeless shelter. By working odd jobs, Sam was able to scratch his way out of the shelter for his wife and their two teenage boys. He applied for and was granted a chance to attend Truck Driving School. He excelled in the course graduating in the top five people of the class and was recently hired on as a part-time cross country driver.
“Receiving a dependable vehicle will greatly help my family,” Utu said. “I am so happy that there are people like this out there. Unbelievable!” He and his family received a 2007 PT Cruiser donated by GEICO Insurance.
Single mom Constance Gutierrez, whose lack of reliable transportation made it extremely difficult to recover from a very abusive relationship of 12 years while raising two children, going to college and working, received a 2008 PT Cruiser donated by Safeco Insurance.
Twenty-two year-old single mother Kayla Walker had been struggling every day to overcome a violent childhood and to become self-sufficient. She was raised on welfare and in shelters and wants a better life for her and her child. After relocating to California at age 17, Walker held several jobs, but could never afford a car while earning minimum wage. She recently applied for a management training position at Burger King and was accepted. Walker received a 2008 Ford Focus donated by Mercury Insurance.
“I can’t believe this car is so amazing,” Walker said. “It looks brand new and I still can’t believe it’s mine. You don’t know how much easier my life is going to be now that I have reliable transportation.”
Single mother Amanda Arroyo is the proud mother of two beautiful girls. While pregnant with her second child, she received the worst news she could have possibly imagined.
“I got a phone call from the CHP telling me that my fiancé Adrian had gotten in a car accident and that he didn’t survive,” Arroyo explained. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to accept. I then realized that my girls would have to grow up without their father and that was heartbreaking. I hope to re-enter school and find a great job, and now with this car it can become a reality. I can now get my girls to daycare and then get myself to work or school. I want to be successful and provide a bright future for my girls, and now I have a chance.” Arroyo received a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt donated by Farmer’s Insurance.
Foster A Dream, a program that serves foster youth in several Bay Area counties, received a 2008 Chevrolet van donated by AAA Insurance. The non-profit organization’s mission is to build the hopes, dreams and future of youth in the foster care system and be a guiding source for successful transmission into the adult world.
In addition, Enterprise donated several children’s car seats and the Contra Costa Fire Department donated bikes and helmets to the recipient’s families with children.
Owner Mike Rose is proud to help people, the community and the collision industry as a whole. “We are in an industry that has the means to get these vehicles road ready,” Rose said. “It’s just a matter of getting all of our vendors on the same page. For the sake of the other applicants that are still in need of reliable transportation, we only hope that more shops can create a similar program of their own to give back to their respective communities.”