Hundreds of Individuals in the Industry Get Much-Appreciated Help from Foundation

silent auction
An evening reception and silent auction in January in Palm Springs, CA, helped the Collision Industry Foundation raise some of the funds now in its COVID-19 Fund.

Bryan Kim’s collision and mechanical repair business, like many others, was struggling this spring as the COVID-19 virus and economic shutdown hit the Catonsville, MD, area.

Sales at ASE Auto Center were down as much as 50% some months, not enough to cover rent and payroll.

“We started bleeding money a little than some shops, that actually shut down for a week or two, but once we started, we bled a lot of money,” said Kim, who has owned the nine-employee business for seven years.

Adding to the challenge: Kim's fiancé and his shop manager's wife both contracted COVID-19, forcing Kim and his manager to each stay away from the shop for several weeks.

“I didn’t want to bring it to the facility, and luckily no one who works here got sick,” he said.

The situation was made a little bit easier, he said, because of some assistance from the Collision Industry Foundation, the nonprofit dedicated to providing emergency financial help or other assistance to members of the industry in need.

“I really appreciated that help,” Kim said. “It wasn’t a crazy amount of money, but it was more the idea of this being an industry that helps each other. It’s great being a part of an industry that does that.”

Carl Garcia, the owner of Carl’s Collision Center in Fall River, MA, said he was among the shop owners and industry vendors at an evening reception and silent auction in Palm Springs, CA, that serves as an annual fundraiser for the foundation.

“I never would have thought that just a couple months later I’d be putting some of my employees in contact with the foundation to help them out,” Garcia said.

The timing of the pandemic and economic shutdown was particularly tough for Garcia’s business. In January, he purchased three new CMC spray booths to install, along with an area dedicated to ADAS calibrations, in a 6,000-square foot addition under construction at the shop.

Then, like many shops, he saw about a 70% drop in his $1-million-a-month business in late March and early April. Some employee layoffs were a painful reality, Garcia said.

One employee he had to lay off had just been hired less than a month previously. Another had some recent health issues. Some faced challenges in getting unemployment claims going because the state system was overwhelmed. So Garcia is thankful he could point them to the foundation, which provided some financial assistance to about a half-dozen of his laid off employees.

“It was great to be able to offer this option to employees who truly needed it,” Garcia said. “It was actually amazing how quickly [the Foundation was] able to process it and get them some money. It went to people who really needed it.”

Garcia said he remembers the foundation over the years raising funds to help individuals in the industry facing challenges because of Hurricane Katrina, the 2018 wildfires in California and major flooding in 2016 in Missouri and West Virginia.

“To have my own staff be the recipient of that same type of support, I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” Garcia said. “Once we are back on our feet, I look forward to making contributions so others get the help that they were able to give my people.”

Tammy Horvat, manager of Fred Martin Collision Center in Barberton, OH, had similar praise for the foundation, which provided assistance to four of the shop’s technicians laid off because of the pandemic.

“This money helped put food on their table, helped pay rent or mortgages or utility bills, the basic necessities that are needed when you are impacted financially after suddenly being laid off,” Horvat said. “To have an organization that steps up and helps our collision repair professionals during times of hardship and crisis is another reason I admire our collision community.”

Maryland shop owner Kim voiced similar appreciation for the foundation.

“I’m going to keep this in the back of my mind, and whenever they ask for what they need, I’m going to try to respond."

The foundation’s COVID-19 Fund received more than $260,000 in donations. To donate, click here

To apply for assistance, click here.

Petra Schroeder, an industry consultant who serves on the board of trustees for the foundation, said its COVID-19 Fund has received more than 560 applications for assistance, though that includes some from people outside the industry, who were denied since they did not meet the foundation’s criteria.

By late May, more than 350 valid applicants---70%---have already received funds, with the rest in some stage of the verification process. 

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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