Friday, 22 August 2014 10:16

Wheels to Prosper’s Annual Giveaway

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On Saturday, July 26, Wheels to Prosper shops across the country gave away 15 vehicles to deserving people in their communities. Dino DiGiulio, owner of Body Best Collision Center in Sonoma, CA, and founder of Wheels to Prosper, notes that it is “mind-blowing to be able to change people’s lives in this type of way” and wonders “how big it could be if we got all the shops in the country involved?”

This year, Body Best awarded their car giveaway vehicle, a 2004 Saturn L300, to Irene Morgan. DiGiulio’s son, Chance, helped Body Best’s technician with the body repairs as his senior project, which his father proudly reports received a grade of “A”.

In 2010, DiGiulio took a public relations class at Management Success, and he admits “I didn’t realize how important it was until I took the class.” When the topic of car giveaways came up, DiGiulio thought it seemed like a practical way of giving back to the community. His friend, Jody Gatchell who owns A & J Collision Repair in Conway, AR was involved with a similar concept through Recycled Rides, and when DiGiulio saw an emotional video about a giveaway recipient, he knew he had to do it.

After acquiring information about the program from Gatchell, including how to organize a car giveaway, DiGiulio began planning Body Best’s first Car Giveaway with the initial intention of donating two to three vehicles yearly. Rather than choosing a person in need, DiGiulio put together a committee to choose a winner, enlisting the aid of a diverse panel of public officials and community leads to select a deserving individual. Early on, DiGiulio decided to choose winners who deserved a vehicle, rather than simply donating to someone in need, because “need is always there,” he explains. “We wanted to help people who help others. Everyone has to do their part, and this is my way of volunteering. By helping this person, he or she can help so many others.”

Gatchell suggested Wheels to Prosper as the name for DiGiulio’s giveaway, and Management Success advised DiGiulio to secure the name and website, helping him build the site. The idea behind Wheels to Prosper was to establish a program to help shops begin the process of sponsoring car giveaways, and when he pitched the idea for a national giveaway to 30 shops in hopes of getting more interest in the program, 11 shops signed up that same day. “We laid out some parameters and established a process, including marketing – there’s a lot of marketing you can do for free because people want to help,” DiGiulio states.

In the four years since its inception, Wheels to Prosper has increased to include 34 shops donating around 25 cars annually, but the program is growing consistently; DiGiulio hopes, by next year, 100 shops will participate in Wheels to Prosper’s annual giveaway because “Jody and I cannot do as much alone as we can when we involved the entire industry. Wheels to Prosper is all about telling shops how easy it really is.”

Though Wheels to Prosper is expanding to include non-Management Success shops, shops interested in participating in the program need to acquire approval from DiGiulio and the program’s administrator, Jim Anderson, because they want to elicit involvement from shops committed to giving away at least one car each year. Anderson, owner of Anderson Automotive in Marion, IA, did a giveaway called “Wheels of Change” several years before DiGiulio began his program, but Anderson joined Wheels to Prosper’s board as their administrator because he wanted to be part of something bigger.

Participating shops pay a one-time fee for inclusion on Wheels to Prosper’s website, but this provides a place to promote their business as it generates traffic back to the shop’s website; DiGiulio estimates receiving around 100 visits to his shop’s website annually through the link from Wheels to Prosper. He states, “it demonstrates that you actually care about the community. It’s a little about business but not really – it’s mainly about how many people are impacted by the donation.”

Wheels to Prosper does not hold any type of contest to determine their winners. Instead, they solicit stories from community members about a person who deserves to win the car giveaway, and a panel of judges reviews the stories to select a winner. “The difference between Wheels to Prosper and other giveaways is that it’s about who is deserving,” DiGiulio explains. “There’s always a need, but we want to help someone who is helping the community, so our winners are always majorly involved with volunteering efforts.”

In May 2011, DiGiulio held his first giveaway, awarding a car to a five-person family run by a local woman who is very active in her community. “She always thinks of everyone before herself. Even though she didn’t have the means to buy a car, she was still actively volunteering in the community, so we rewarded her efforts by giving her a car which allows her to help others even more.”

Gatchell held his giveaway in July 2011, and DiGiulio held a second giveaway that same year. Afterwards, they decided to choose a consistent date for the annual giveaway, electing the last Saturday in July at 12PM CST. Ultimately, the goal is for all Wheels to Prosper shops to hold their annual giveaway on the same day each year.

While the participating shops acquire the giveaway vehicles through various means, Wheels to Prosper requires the donated vehicle to be in good shape with less than 100,000 miles on it in hopes of servicing the winner for at least five years without any troubles. DiGiulio’s first giveaway was a salvage loaner with low mileage, and for his second giveaway, he purchased a vandalized car that just needed a new paint job. No matter how the vehicles are acquired, the Wheels to Prosper shop makes any collision and mechanical repairs necessary before donating the vehicle to their deserving new owner.

Thus far, nearly 50 cars have been given away through Wheels to Prosper with a few more giveaways scheduled to take place in October. A film company is currently in negotiations to develop a 12-part miniseries on a shop sponsoring a giveaway, and DiGiulio is optimistic about the publicity that such a program would provide for Wheels to Prosper.