“There are so many people out there struggling right now for whatever reason and these letters touch my soul every time I read them,” he aid. “Things are not going well for them for whatever reason, but they don’t give up and they never lose hope. If we can help them by giving them a reliable vehicle so that their lives will be a little easier, I feel like it’s our obligation to do it.”
Saying yes to some and no to others is obviously difficult and that’s why Gene tries to say yes to as many as he can. It’s a tough job to sift through these requests, and that’s why Govinda Crozat, the company’s outreach program director plays an important role in reading all of the letters and working with the other members of the Crozat family as they pick their recipients.
It’s a huge undertaking helping those in need and making a difference in the communities in which they do business. “We have given away 21 cars so far this year and we will be giving away four more pretty quickly, hoping to hit 24-30 by the end of the year,” Govinda said. “We created the Crozat Family Foundation to help people in need. In addition to giving away the cars, we also help people by giving them Safeway, Shell and Target gift cards, as well as occasional help with rent, funeral expenses, utilities and other needs.”
By partnering with insurance companies, the Crozat Family Foundation is now giving away more and more cars. “We have had three insurance partners (State Farm, Geico and Allstate) all donate cars which were fixed by our Santa Rosa, Windsor and Petaluma techs on their own time with parts that were also donated by local vendors. It’s amazing and really satisfying to see more people and companies getting involved. ther companies have stepped up to help G&C in their charitable efforts, Govinda Crozat explained. “We also have all of the cars processed through the DMV by a company called B&C Registration Services. They’re doing it all free of charge which is exceptional. They know all of the ins and outs with the DMV, which is so helpful. When dealing with salvage titles, total losses and cars purchased at auction, we need a company like B&C to help us to navigate through the DMV. It can be tricky and there is a lot of paperwork involved and Brenda Smith at B&C has helped us tremendously.”
Instead of buying cars randomly, now G&C is acquiring vehicles specifically earmarked for particular families in need. “We have gone from buying cars haphazardly at the local car mart to buying ‘in bulk’ at the surplus government vehicles auction every three months in Davis, CA,” Govinda said. “I purchased six cars at the last auction and will be attending for the third time in two weeks. We spend an average of $5,000 per car after purchase, repairs and DMV registration fees and the recipients get safe, reliable transportation that can last them for many years to come.”
“I also purchase cars to fit specific needs,” she continued “I have searched for vans for families with several kids, wheelchair van for a woman and her handicapped son, nd a construction truck for a woman who took over her husband’s construction job after he fell through a second story roof and broke his neck. She was going to lose the job if she didn’t have a truck by Friday… literally! They also had a one-year-old so I made sure that the truck had a rear door for easy access in and out of the car seat.”
By constantly touting their car giveaway program on local radio stations, G&C is getting the word out in a big way. “We receive the request letters through Froggy 92.9 and Hot 101.7 here in Sonoma County, as well as KWNE in the Ukiah area,” Govinda said. The air time is donated by the Sonoma Media Group and KWNE. A TV spot is currently running on KOFY TV and we have received letters from their viewers. We also receive some of the letters directly, as people hear about us from friends or sources other than the radio stations.”
Fixing cars is easy, but repairing lives is a little tougher, but that doesn’t mean he will ever stop trying, Gene said. “If we can change one life for the better, we’ve done our job. Sure, we’re in the business of fixing cars and doing a quality job on every car we repair, but if we can give a little back, why not? It’s not all about money in the end, because you can’t take it with you.”