Wednesday, 31 December 2003 17:00

Texas body shops rebuild cars for deserving families

Written by Karyn Hendricks
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Three Texas body shops including Bates Custom & Collision of Baytown, ProCare Collision of San Antonio, and Ellis and Salazar of Austin, presented needy, deserving families in their community with rebuilt vehicles as part of the Akzo Nobel Benevolence Program. 

This year, 26 collision centers around the United States and Canada committed to the Akzo Nobel Benevolence program. The shops worked with local charitable organizations to help identify those in need of a vehicle. They then purchased a vehicle in need of repair, brought it to pre-accident condition and worked with a local insurance provider to secure coverage for the vehicle for a predetermined period of time.

Fifth year for Bates in program

"Each year the collision repair industry as a whole comes across cars that are "written off" by either the owner or the insurance company," explained Leila Bates, vice president of Bates Custom & Collision. "Oftentimes these are older vehicles that just need some mechanical and bodywork to get them road ready and perfectly safe to drive. Because we believe these cars are going to waste when there are people who really need them, we decided to do something about it.

"For the fifth consecutive year, our employees have volunteered their time to refurbish a vehicle; it's a real team effort! Our administrative staff participates by filling the car with gifts for the family. We view this program as a helping hand up, and both recipients displayed the determination and dedication to becoming independent that we look for. "

On December 17, a 1998 Nissan Altima was presented to Ms. Katina Alexander of Channelview. "It was her dedication to provide for her family as a single mother that touched our hearts," said Bates. She attends Houston Community College while holding down a job and raising two boys aged 4 and 8 years. Yet she still finds time to volunteer at her church and is very active in her boys' school."
The second automobile - a 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass - was given to Ms. Celeste Brown of Baytown, mother of two daughters aged 10 and 16 years. "Her determination to provide for her family was painfully evident to us as we learned that she was walking over 3 miles to work most days. Other days she was getting rides from co-workers, family and friends. Owning their own vehicle will give these families that helping hand up that they need to become independent and see 2004 as a year of success," said Bates.
Bates worked with Harris County Department of Education-Head Start Program to help identify an individual or family in need of a vehicle.

ProCare Collision, San Antonio

On December 10, 2003, ProCare Collision presented Frank Ortiz with a new car filled with Christmas gifts for his two small children. The red, 4-door 2000 Hyundai Elantra was presented live on the television show "Great Day S.A." with Lu Parker.

Ortiz' wife Tracy was murdered early in the month of November in a drive-by shooting. The wrong house was targeted and Tracy was hit by a bullet while watching T.V. in the living room of their Southside home with her family. To make matters even worse, the family car was hit by gunfire as well and confiscated by the San Antonio Police as evidence. This left Ortiz with no transportation to take his two children to school or get himself to work.


With the help of some local vendors, ProCare Collision Center provided him with the much-needed transportation and hopefully helped bring a little joy and happiness to his family during the holiday season.

Along with the car, Ortiz was provided with six months of auto insurance courtesy of Leslie Beaubien's Farmers Insurance Agency, $250 in gas courtesy of Hertz Local Addition Rent-a-Car, and more wrapped Christmas gifts for his two small children than you can count. All in all, the experience was one of total joy and just goes to prove that San Antonians will go the extra mile when one of their own is in need.

Ellis and Salazar Body Shop

Reminiscent of TV's Oprah, Ellis and Salazar Auto Body in Austin, Texas, chose the "ambush method" to notify the recipient of the car they repaired. Owner Joe Lewright and staff member Misty Hagan brought balloons and flowers to the Child, Inc. center, where Rhonda Douglas was to pick up her son, to surprise her with the news that she had been chosen to receive the refurbished 1994 Honda Accord. Ironically, her car broke down on the way to pick up her son! When she finally arrived, everyone at the center was waiting to congratulate her with cheers and applause.

According to Hagan, "It was so wonderful seeing the surprise and excitement on her face - absolutely priceless." She and her children were invited to the special Christmas presentation meal the following Friday, at which time she would get to drive her "new" car home.

The luncheon was a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Guest speakers included Senator Gonzalo Barrientos and City Councilman Danny Thomas. Several news stations covered the event. After the car was unveiled, Lewright told Ms. Douglas that she wasn't the only one leaving the celebration with a new set of "wheels" for Christmas. Behind the car were three brand new bicycles for the children - Dion, 9 years, Briana, 8 years, and De'jon, 4 years.

Ms. Douglas made a tearful thank-you speech. She asked everyone to stand up as she acknowledged and thanked each Ellis and Salazar employee, everyone at Child Inc, and all the various vendors that helped make the car whole again.

Ms. Douglas, a full-time student at Austin Community College as well as a mother of three, maintains a 3.0 average She was selected from applicants nominated by Child, Inc., a pre-school/head start type program with many different "schools" throughout Austin to find our recipient. The personnel at the schools nominate people they feel would benefit from the vehicle. Child, Inc verifies that each nominee meets the Child, Inc. qualifications, such as attendance at parent/teacher meetings, volunteer hours, parent involvement, child attendance. Through this process, Ellis and Salazar received 30 letters which were subsequently narrowed down by Lewright and staff to determine the final recipient.


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