Thursday, 31 January 2002 17:00

Body shop repairs car and donates to needy family

Written by Richard Neubauer
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Maria Martinez won't be walking to work anymore, thanks to the generous spirit of Bates Custom & Collision in Baytown, Texas. The single mother of three teenage children regularly took a bus from her Houston home and then walked several miles to her $8.50/hour job as a security guard, while her teenagers walked three miles to school. 

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Maria Martinez getting in to her repaired '94 Pontiac Grand Am. Local media turned out to cover the event.
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(L to R) Leila Bates, Maria Martinez and Lee Bates and the staff of Bates Custom & Upholstery are all smiles as the car is delivered.
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The office staff stocked the car with "wish list" gifts for the Martinez family

The family can now give up their Metro bus pass and get to work and school in a beautifully repaired '94 Pontiac Grand Am, with a Blue Book value of $4,500, donated to them through the efforts of Lee and Leila Bates and the 23 employees at the Bates body shop, a 12 year-old, $2.35 million collision repair operation in suburban Houston.

"This is the third year we've participated in the Akzo Nobel Acoat benevolence program," explained Leila Bates. "There are 25 other Akzo Acoat shops that, like us, repair a 'totaled' car and donate it to a needy family at Christmas. Local charities nominate families to receive the car, and Maria was suggested to us by the Bay Area Women's Center. She and her kids work really hard, but it's a struggle for them to get by. Having reliable transportation will mean a lot to them."
Bates explained that throughout the year, she and husband Lee look for a 'totaled' car that is not too badly damaged but which will not bring much at the salvage auction. They buy it from the insurer and then the staff goes to work. "Our techs repair the car after the work day is through and will even come in on the weekend," said Lee. Used OEM parts are donated by both LKQ Corporation and Williams Auto Salvage in Houston. Akzo Nobel donates the paint and materials. A local State Farm agent, Larry Wilkey, and a Farmers agent, Lee Wiley, arrange for six months of insurance. "Our office staff gets involved too. We collect donations and then buy Christmas presents from the family's 'wish list' to fill the car with," said Leila. "It's a really exciting day when we give them the car. There's always television and newspaper coverage, lots of hugs and thank-you's, and it makes everyone really feel like Christmas."

Wouldn't this be a great way for your shop to help a local family next Christmas. If you'd like further information on the Akzo Acoat Selected National Benevolence Program, or practical tips from the Bates on how they get it done, call Leila Bates at 281-428-2209, or e-mail: batescustom@yahoo.com.
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