Wednesday, 21 December 2011 13:24

Mike’s Auto Body Benevolence Program

Christmas arrived a little early for the 11th straight year when five deserving families in Contra Costa County received refurbished vehicles from Mike’s Auto Body in Antioch, CA. The presentation ceremony on December 14 was attended by more than 200 people representing body shops, insurance companies and community leaders.

Over the past decade, Mike’s Auto Body has presented a total of 30 cars to families in need and non-profit organizations through its very own Benevolence Program. Sal Contreras is the marketing director at Mike’s Auto Body and has been the main force behind the program since day one.

“It has been so rewarding over the last ten years presenting the cars to deserving individuals and organizations who are working to improve their skills and become independent,” Contreras said. “Everything is donated—the cars, parts, paint, mechanical inspections, tires and six months of insurance. The body and paint technicians donate their time and talents. AAA of Northern California, Mercury Insurance Group, Safeco, GEICO and Farmers Insurance are participating this year by donating a ‘written off’ vehicle to this effort.”

Mike Rose said he is proud to be a part of the program. “We are in an industry that has the means to get these vehicles road ready,” Rose said. “It’s just a matter of getting all of our vendors on the same page. For the sake of the other applicants that are still in need of reliable transportation, we only hope that more shops can create a similar program of their own to give back to the community.”

Each year, Mike’s Auto Body comes across cars that are “written off” by either the owner or the insurance company. Often times these are older vehicles that just need some mechanical and body work to get them back on the road 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”, Contreras explained.

“We feel very fortunate to be involved with such a wonderful program and are very excited to be able to give back to the community that has supported us for the past 39 years,” Mike Rose said. “Being in this business for that long, repairing the vehicles is the easy part, having to decide on a recipient is the part that’s hard.  After receiving hundreds of applications over the years and reading the heart breaking stores, we only wish that we could do more.  But hopefully with increased publicity of our Benevolence Program other shops will adopt a similar program of their own.”

Local media flocks to the unveiling ceremony every December and this year Channel 7 and other TV stations broadcast the presentation from Mike Rose’s Antioch location. Several local newspapers covered the presentation and the Mayor of Antioch Jim Davis opened the presentation by saying a few words of good wishes and welcomed everyone to Antioch.

The Contra Costa Fire Fighters Local 1230 generously donated brand new bicycles and new helmets for all the children and grandchildren of the recipients.

Recipients this year included Delberta Ray Miller, a 65 year-old grandmother who has been raising her grandson since he was two years old. She lives on a fixed income and recently had to make a difficult decision—either buy groceries or fix her old car. Now she’ll be driving a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt donated by Farmer’s Insurance.

Thirty-three-year-old Marie Green is raising her four daughters and taking care of her mother who is suffering from COPD. She received an immaculate 2005 Honda Odyssey van donated by AAA Insurance. “With rent and four kids to take care of every penny that comes in the house has gone for bills or either the kids, so it is impossible to think about saving for a car,” Green said. “Even though I have a full time job, I am a home care provider for my mother who is ill and with minimal child support, there is still always something to take care of financially and making a car priority is something I just can’t afford. Receiving a car from your program will really help my family more than you will know. It will lift a huge weight off my shoulders as a mother because my children will be happy and that’s all I really care about the most.”

Another recipient was Francisco A. Granados, 34 year-old single father raising two children. He received a 2007 Honda Civic donated by Safeco Insurance. “We live at home with my mother and father and it’s very hard not having our own vehicle,” Granados explained.”We’ve had so many ups and downs along the road. It’s very hard having to depend on others and public transportation, especially in Antioch. I work in the mornings at 4 a.m. and have to catch BART. I’m late almost every day because public transportation doesn’t run that early in the morning. When we get home there’s only time for dinner, showers, and getting ready for bed. It’s very hard to stay positive. I sleep on the coach in order for my kids to have a bed. The negativity is wearing down on the three of us. Kids don’t understand about money and how it’s not easy to come by. This car will give me a lot more time to pursue open doors and help me to broaden my search for a better job.”

Nancy Vongchanh and Joshua Ledford got a 2006 Ford Focus donated by GEICO Insurance. Nancy was at the ceremony and Joshua was on the speakerphone from Afghanistan, finishing up a one-year deployment there with the Army National Guard.

And the fifth recipient was Tracy Denise Bland, a single mother with an eight-year-old son named Tracy. She was presented with a 2008 Toyota Yaris donated by Mercury Insurance. “I’m a typical hustle and bustle mom that does what it takes in order to survive”. Every day is a struggle for me. I walk my son to school which is about a 20-30 minute walk. After that, I beat the pavement in my community looking for employment. Now that I have this beautiful car, it will allow me to really get out into the workforce and to become the successful business woman that I know that I am!”