From small independent shops all the way to huge chains, collision repairers all over the country present people with nearly new cars year round. But, no one does it like the National Auto Body Council (NABC), which has given away more than 2,000 vehicles to individuals, families and nonprofit organizations over the years.
Five worthy individuals and families from Nevada received their keys to fully refurbished vehicles by the NABC at its annual Recycled Rides Luncheon on Nov. 1 at the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. More than 200 people attended the presentation luncheon held at the Westgate Las Vegas Paradise Convention Center, with many of the program's sponsors, body shops and insurance companies that donate their time and money to the Recycled Rides Program every year.
Recipient Jorge Hernandez lost everything---his hopes, his dreams, both of his legs and the use of his hands in a near-death accident. He was a star athlete in high school who also found success in business early in his life, and was well on his way to his goal of becoming a real estate investor. Unfortunately, when the market crashed, he did as well. He began spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, which culminated in an accident in which a friend fell asleep at the wheel. His luck was heading in the wrong direction until he was selected to receive a car donation as part of the NABC's Recycled Rides presentation at this year's SEMA Show.
Today, Hernandez is walking and driving again, and is on a mission to tell his story of redemption and survival while giving back to hospitals, rehab centers, veterans, burn survivors and amputees who are going through similar challenges. All of this year's Recycled Rides recipients were nominated by Family Promise of Las Vegas and the Marine Corps League.
When he received the keys to his 2015 Toyota Corolla, Hernandez was moved nearly to tears.
"There are no coincidences in life and I know this was meant to happen," he said. "I was left on this planet to help people and this car will enable me to continue my work."
In addition to Hernandez, the other recipients included:
• A single father, Brandon Gonzales, and his 6-year-old son, Braydon, who received a 2015 Toyota Corolla.
• Earl and Sheri Shaw, who leave their house up to four hours before they must be at work so they can drop off 7-month-old daughter, Jasmin, at daycare and make it to work on time by foot and public transportation. They received a 2015 Chrysler 200.
• Marine veteran Javier Rivera-Suarez and his wife, Estela, and two sons who are transitioning from homelessness to an apartment of their own, who received a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze.
• Tamara Lugman, also transitioning out of homelessness and starting a new job, was presented with a 2015 Nissan Altima.
The Recycled Rides vehicles were donated by Allstate, GEICO, State Farm, Hertz and Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The vehicles were refurbished by technicians at local repair shops Caliber Collision-Henderson, Geber Collision & Auto Glass, Service King Green Valley, MAACO Henderson and New Look Collision, who volunteer and donate their personal time. Parts, paint and other materials were donated by suppliers and manufacturers for a 100 percent collaborative industry effort.
This will be the final year for NABC Executive Director Chuck Sulkala, who is retiring but never gets tired of seeing people’s lives change right in front of his eyes, he said.
“When people don't have transportation, it can impact their lives in many ways and create huge obstacles for them to get past things such as drug addiction or homelessness,” Sulkala said. “The Recycled Rides program is an industry-wide collaborative community service program whose goal is to positively change lives by donating vehicles that represent hope, independence and freedom. Of all the things we do here at the NABC, this is probably the most satisfying---giving cars to people who truly deserve them."