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Friday, 16 May 2014 00:00

Auto Body Owner in Roanoake, VA, Makes Over Rescue Mission Van for Children

Richard Henegar Jr., who goes by Junior, runs Quality Auto Paint & Body in Roanoke, VA. He got a lot of attention in 2010 when he led an effort to remake the battered pickup truck of a friend who was serving in Afghanistan, giving it a custom paint job and lots of interior work and repairs. Then in 2012, Henegar got far wider attention when he stepped in to help a gay Radford University student whose car had been vandalized. The good deed prompted an invitation to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” DeGeneres even filmed a commercial for Quality Auto Paint & Body.

On April 27, 2014, in an event attached to Vinton’s Dogwood Festival, Henegar presented his latest project—and the first done under the banner of Quality Cares, a new organization that Henegar described as a “makeshift nonprofit” dedicated to charity vehicle makeovers.

The idea had come to him after he appeared on DeGeneres’ show, Henegar said, to continue donating vehicle upgrades as a way of attracting attention to worthy programs and efforts.

“I wanted to do something with this 15 minutes of fame,” Henegar said.

So in 2013, he contacted Rescue Mission Ministries, the long-running Roanoke organization that runs shelters for the homeless and operates an array of programs dealing with addiction, hunger, and more.

Henegar asked how he could help, and learned about the 1993 Dodge Ram van used for various tasks. The van’s most regular errand is as a 12-person shuttle taking children from the Rescue Mission shelter in Roanoke to a day program on a Floyd County farm, said Kim Gembala, the director of admissions for Rescue Mission Ministries.

Henegar decided the van was a prime candidate for a makeover. “It was worse for wear, kind of worn out…It wasn’t very appealing,” he said. “We decided we were going to make this van a really cool experience, something really fun to ride in.”

Henegar called on auto body students at the Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC), where he helps as an adviser. Four students stripped the van’s interior and exterior to prepare for the vinyl wraps that Henegar planned.

All sorts of upgrades and modifications ensued, such as a better stereo and the bubble machine mounted in a back interior corner.

As a highlight of the car show that was raising money for the new Quality Cares organization— the board is still putting together paperwork to gain nonprofit status, Henegar said—the van was officially unveiled.

It sported a sturdy roof rack above a shiny exterior festooned with logos for the Rescue Mission and for companies that contributed to the makeover.

But the real eye candy was inside, where an interior vinyl wrap—the first of its kind in this area, Henegar said—plastered the walls with drawings of Roanoke landmarks like the Mill Mountain Star and the Texas Tavern. The ceiling was done up as the night sky, adorned with colorful galaxies.

Miguel Mejia, 17, of Eagle Rock was one of the BTEC students who helped with the project. The sophomore at James River High School spent a couple of months—a time that lengthened when snow prompted school cancellations—tearing out the van’s interior. His take on the finished product? “It’s awesome,” Mejia said, grinning.

Some of the children who stay at the Rescue Mission offered an even more succinct review as they bounded through the van, honking the horn at the front and excitedly waving out the back.

“Bubbles! Bubbles!” they shouted.

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