Thursday, 20 January 2011 18:03

Ray Gunder Spearheads Successful ‘Angel Autos’ Giveaway

Five needy families, their circumstances exacerbated by a lack of adequate transportation, received showroom-quality used cars during a blustery ceremony outside Victory Church in Lakeland thanks to area body shops last month.

Amid a sea of tears, hugs and hallelujahs, members of the Auto Angels experienced the joy of giving, promising to help more families next year.

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“I’ve never had a feeling like this, and I’m 60 years old. I’ve had chill bumps all morning,” said Ray Gunder, owner of a Lakeland automotive center who was instrumental in bringing about the car giveaway.

Twenty or more area auto dealers, garages and body shops, comprise the Auto Angels program. Gunder said he patterned the group after Recycled Rides, a nationwide awareness campaign that is aligned with the National Auto Body Council. In the past few months, Gunder and his associates acquired five cars in need of varying amounts of TLC. In some cases entire engines were replaced, he said.


With help from Victory Church and The Ledger’s Newspaper with a Heart committee, five families were selected from roughly 300 applicants.

Among those receiving free automobiles were JoAnn Bustos; Telia Lamb, Winter Haven, 1997 Dodge Intrepid; Nicole George, Auburndale, 1989 Chevrolet Monte Carlo; Darla Kunze, Lakeland, Pontiac Grand Prix; and Cherrie DuFour, Winter Haven, 1998 Honda Civic.

“You can talk about Christmas around the world, but it doesn’t get any more real than this,” the Rev. Wayne Blackburn of Victory Church said to the event’s crowd of onlookers.

“I can tell you that Lakeland, Florida, and Polk County, can really put it on with the spirit of Christmas.”

This was only possible through the contributions of time, efforts and resources of the following “Auto Angels”: AllPro Used Auto Parts, AutoBody Resurrection, Auto Damage Experts, Auto Xpressions, Bartow Ford, Ben’s Paint & Supply, Bernie’s Body Shop, Chili’s – Lakeland – 98 North Location, Dent Wizard, Godfrey Limo Service, Douglas Collision Center, Gunder’s Auto Center, Jenkins Lincoln Mercury, Lakeland AutoMall, Maurice’s Auto Repair, NAPA Auto Parts, PPG Auto Finishes, Preston USA, Inc., Regal Lakeland, Stewart’s Auto Repair , Scott’s Lock & Key and Subs – n – Such. Special thanks to Rev. Blackburn and Victory Church in Lakeland, Fl. for their hospitality and providing a location for the event.

The program plans to begin planning next years giveaway right away and welcomes anyone who wishes to participate. For more information please contact Barrett Smith at barrett@autodamageexperts.com. Photos courtesy myfoxtampabay.com.

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