After the Donation: Caliber Collision, Allstate Step Up to Help Army Veteran

Army Veteran Eboni Strader
Army Veteran Eboni Strader, with her son Isaiah, received a 2014 Toyota Corolla from Caliber Collision in conjunction with Allstate Insurance as part of NABC's Recycled Rides program last year.

Some deserving people receive donated cars to make their lives a little easier, while others use them to get better jobs and improve their situations.

For Eboni Strader, a disabled U.S. Army veteran and single mother of two children, her new vehicle has allowed her to continue receiving critical medical treatment, take her children to school, continue her education and work with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), which serves veterans throughout the entire state.

"I work in the executive suite with the Women’s Division. This car has given me the ability to achieve all of this in just two short months after receiving the car. Life was exceedingly difficult for me and my children before we received the gift of this vehicle,” she said.

In October 2018, Caliber Collision, in conjunction with Allstate Insurance as part of the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program, presented a completely refurbished 2014 Toyota Corolla to Strader at the sixth annual Military Women's Appreciation Day at American River College in Sacramento, CA.

More than 200 female veterans and active service members attended the event, which was hosted by VA NorCal and produced in cooperation with Operation: Care and Comfort, The Soldiers Project and the American River College Veterans Resource Center.

"The car changed my life because it removed a lot of stress," Strader said. "This entire experience changed my life because it made me a better mother, student and employee and has allowed me to gain the freedom and independence I desperately needed. Now I can obtain the medical treatment and care that I desperately need, and it allows me to keep my children enrolled in the current charter school they attend because I can get them to and from school every day."

In 2015, Strader relocated to California to escape a domestic violence situation and start anew.

"I got on an airplane with my two children, and we had to leave a lot of our possessions behind," she said. "We came to seek shelter with a family member in another city but were unable to stay there, and eventually we had to move. We then came to Sacramento, and I sought help from the VA here. I was placed in VA housing for women with SVRC (Sacramento Veterans Resource Center).

“My children and I were housed with them for over a year before I received my own permanent housing through a special program set up for veterans called Hud-Vash. During this time, I was diagnosed with several health issues as well as MTSD. As a disabled veteran, it was vital for me to continue getting the treatment I desperately needed from the VA hospital located at Mather Airfield.

“Shortly after receiving housing, my car was repossessed, and I had no other means of getting another car. I had used all the money I had saved up to pay the deposit on our townhome and was unable to afford the $400 car payments any longer.

“For a while, I was able to borrow a vehicle to take my children to school until the rear right tire broke off and was slung into oncoming traffic. I then was able to get my case manager to graciously take time out of her day to travel from Mather to pick me up for a couple of vital appointments I had at the VA hospital. I also was given a bus pass, and I occasionally took a Lyft if I needed to go grocery shopping. There was one period of time over the summer that my children were home for more than 30 days straight without being able to go anywhere. Thank God for the Dollar General store across the street from our home because I was able to walk there for any crucial items we needed."

Without a vehicle, Strader and her family weren't able to enjoy California. Once she received the car from Caliber Collision, she was able to take a significant trip with her kids, she said.

"One of the greatest gifts I received with the gifting of the vehicle was the ability to fulfill a dream for my children by taking them to Disneyland,” she said. “My children had been through so much; this was something incredibly special for us to do together as a family. With the help of Allstate Insurance and Caliber Collision, I was able to make that dream come true for my children last year during the Thanksgiving break. They gifted my family $400 in gift cards as well as $100 in gas cards. That is a memory my children and I will never forget.

“I want to provide my children with a better life and show them that if you keep trying and believe in yourself, things will get better. From this experience, they have also learned there are wonderful people out there who are willing to help without expecting anything in return."

Strader has resided in a townhouse with her children in the Natomas, CA, area for over a year now. She is a full-time student working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix and is a straight-A student.

Several groups and organizations were instrumental in helping this single mom receive the car, especially her Hud-Vash case worker, Misty Ogsaen, who recommended Strader for the donation, and Caliber Collision field account representative Larry Lane.

"When I heard her story, it was inspirational, and once she got the vehicle, I was confident that she would start paying it forward,” Lane said.

Caliber teamed up with its industry partners to donate more than 100 cars in 2018 and plans to do the same this year.

Recycled Rides is a 12-year-old program in which insurers, collision repairers, paint suppliers, parts vendors and other collision industry companies collaborate to repair donated vehicles for deserving individuals and service organizations throughout the country. The company has repaired about 2,000 donated vehicles.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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