Bay Area MSO Celebrates Two Decades of Benevolence

Bay Area MSO Celebrates Two Decades of Benevolence

Since the pandemic began, many body shops have temporarily suspended the practice of giving refurbished vehicles to deserving families, and it makes sense.

But, even during these uncertain times, Mike’s Auto Body in California’s East Bay is committed to continue its benevolence program, safely and within local regulations.

Over the last 19 years, Mike’s Auto Body has presented 88 cars to deserving families and nonprofit organizations. On July 16, vehicle No. 89, a fully-loaded 2015 KIA Sedona, was given to U.S. Coast Guard Yeoman PO2 Eladia Minton and her family at a ceremony near the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda, CA. The vehicle was donated by Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance.

This year’s presentation, held in the shadows of the enormous carrier, also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the rank of chief petty officer in the Coast Guard, and marked Mike’s Auto Body’s 20th anniversary participating in the benevolence program.

Everything is always donated, including the cars, parts, paint, mechanical inspections, tires and one full year of insurance. The body and paint technicians donate their time and talents.

Due to COVID-19 and all the related restrictions, Mike’s Auto Body was not able to hold its typical presentation, but roughly 40 people were in attendance, including Coast Guard representatives, Mike’s employees---including the technicians who worked on the vehicle---business partners, vendors, local political representatives, insurance companies and the local press, for one that was still very powerful.

The program opened with remarks from Sal Contreras, who has been emceeing Mike’s benevolence presentations for two decades.

“It has been so rewarding over the last 19 years, presenting the cars to deserving individuals and organizations who are working to improve their skills and become independent," Contreras said. "We are excited to be part of our recipient’s life-changing experience, and doing it in this amazing location next to these ships makes it even more significant.

“We are grateful this year to have Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance donate a 'written off' vehicle that will be presented to a deserving Coastie family,” Contreras continued. "The benevolence program is about helping people who are in need of a helping hand. The pandemic did put a lockdown on the program in March and we weren’t sure if we would be having any presentations at all this year.

"Towards the end of April, our team decided, even though all this craziness is around us, people are still deserving of some goodness in their lives."

This was followed by an invocation by Coast Guard Chaplain Matthew Harris; remarks from Dane Dearlove, Mike’s Auto Body’s director of marketing; Capt. Jose Pena, commanding officer of Coast Guard Base Alameda; SKCS Sain-R “SKE" Edwards Jr., president of the Golden Gate Chapter of the CPOA, and SCPO Rick Paauwe, past president; CMC Ryan Goodman, command master chief of Base Alameda, who wrote the nomination letter for Minton; Manny Perrotta, senior repair network specialist for Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance; and finally a moving thank you from Minton.

"We never get tired of giving vehicles to deserving people in the military, and this year was special because we were able to give away two cars," Dearlove said. "By providing these recipients with these cars, we're giving them the gift of transportation that offers them independence and a chance to improve their lives. We call this a hand up rather than a handout, because we have seen these vehicles enable people to do great things."

Ed Attanasio

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

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