Four years ago this May, which is designated as National Military Appreciation Month, U.S. Air Force veteran Diana Cuesta received a gift that she recalls, “forever and literally changed my life.”
At the time, Cuesta says her world was limited to 1 to 2 square miles. That’s about the furthest she could safely drive her 1995 Honda Civic with 300,000 miles. She was limited to a low-paying kitchen job and lived in a neighborhood she did not feel was safe for her two young sons, then 6 and 10. She felt isolated, unable to even visit family in the Dallas area when she wanted.
The gift that turned their lives around was a 2010 Kia Forte from the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program.
Cuesta is one of hundreds of military veterans and service members who have received life-changing gifts of transportation from members of the National Auto Body Council (NABC) which represents all facets of the collision repair industry.
Industry-Wide Collaboration to Give Back
There are numerous valuable organizations that have vehicle donation programs where run-down cars are sold for parts, with proceeds used to fund services to benefit veterans. Recycled Rides is the one of the only programs that actually puts veterans behind the wheel of the vehicle, so they can commute to work, get better-paying jobs, and improve the quality of life for their families.
Recycled Rides is a unique, all volunteer, collision industry-wide collaboration. It starts with insurance, rental car, salvage and auction companies who donate a car. Technicians at collision repair companies then volunteer their personal time and skills, and with donations of parts, materials from suppliers and manufacturers, refurbish and donate the vehicle to individuals and families in need.
“It’s Not Just a Car”
Three weeks after Cuesta received her car, she landed a new job at a corporate catering company. She was finally able to answer “yes” on a job application that asked if she had a car and reliable transportation. Today, she lives in a neighborhood where her boys can safely play outside.
“If you can’t commute, you’re stuck. You can’t get a better job. It’s not just a car, it opened doors to new opportunities,” said Cuesta.
Since the inception of the Recycled Rides program in 2007, members of the National Auto Body Council have donated more than 1,700 cars with an estimated value of $20 million. More than half of the nearly 300 Recycled Rides vehicles donated in 2017 were to military veterans and service members.
Some of the car donations scheduled this month to honor and thank veterans are:
- Minneapolis – A car donation from LaMettry’s Collision and American Family Insurance to a Marine who is single-handedly raising three young daughters after the unexpected death of his wife at age 31.
- Jacksonville, North Carolina – Caliber Collision and Allstate are teaming up to donate a car to a disabled Vietnam-era veteran working at Camp Lejeune.
- Portland, Oregon – A vehicle from GEICO and ABRA Collision and Glass will help a formerly homeless veteran transition into stable housing and back on the road to success.
- Malden, Massachusetts – A National Guardsman will be receiving much-needed transportation from Today’s Collision and MetLife Insurance.
Contact the National Auto Body Council for more information on any of the upcoming Recycled Rides presentations during May Military Appreciation Month.