Every year, people know that the holidays are just around the corner when Mike’s Auto Body in northern California’s East Bay starts giving cars to deserving families, individuals and non-profit organizations. This year, five recipients received completely refurbished vehicles on December 11th at its Antioch location, as local companies worked in conjunction to make life a little easier for those less fortunate.
This marked our 19th year of giving away cars—a total of 88 vehicles and counting.
Every year, we come across cars that are “written off” by either their owners or insurance companies. In most cases, these are older vehicles that just need some mechanical and bodywork to get them back on the roads and safe to drive. Nineteen years ago, the people at Mike’s saw that they could genuinely help people by giving them refurbished cars, so they decided to step up and that’s how the program began.
It was a rainy day, but the feeling of benevolence was in the air. After Emcee Sal Contreras made the opening invocation, there was a flag presentation by Mt. Diablo JROTC Color Guard under the direction of LTC Marvin Davis. It was followed by American the Beautiful performed by our very own bagpiper Kristopher Muse, and then the Antioch High School Band played the National Anthem under the direction of Band Director Brooke Crawford.
Other speakers included Antioch’s Mayor pro tempore Joy Motts; Marketing Manager Dane Dearlove; Farmers Insurance District Manager Daniel Brown; Senior State Farm Agent Mike Stoiber; Liberty/Safeco Claims Manager Tom Donahue; PR Consultant for CSAA Insurance Group Jason Willett; Enterprise Rent A Car Regional VP Kelly Hunt and Jason Morin from Big O Tires.
Santa Claus made a grand entrance, courtesy of the Contra Costa County Fire Fighters Station 81 led by Captain Jon Taormina. At the end of the car’s presentation, Big O Tire’s Jason Morin presented brand new bikes, tricycles and helmets, donated by Big O Tires, to all the children. It was hard to tell who was more excited, the recipients getting the cars or the kids getting the new bikes?
Dearlove made a speech that conveyed an inspirational message that resonates throughout the crowd of close to 300 attendees. “This is not about you and me,” he said. “It’s about all of us and how we can help those in need.”
Contreras has been an integral part of the program since day one, so he has seen countless peoples’ lives change with the gift of transportation. “This has become more than just a community relations program designed to generate goodwill at the local level. Everything is always donated, including the cars, parts, paint, mechanical inspections, tires, and one full year of insurance. Our body and paint technicians donate their time and skills and they look forward to doing it every year. CSAA Insurance Group, Farmers Insurance, State Farm Insurance, Liberty/Safeco Insurance and Enterprise Rent A Car participated this year in our December presentation by donating a “written off” vehicle that will be given away to a deserving family.”
Benevolence has become an annual rite for Mike Rose, his family and his employees, and they never get tired of it. “We feel extremely fortunate to be involved with such an amazing program and are excited to be able to give back to all of the communities that have supported us for the past 47 years,” Rose said. “Being in the collision repair business for as long as we have, repairing the vehicles is the easiest part, but having to select a recipient is the part that’s always hard. After getting hundreds of applications over the years and reading all of the heartbreaking stories, we only wish that we could do so much more. But hopefully with the increased publicity of our Benevolence Program, other shops will adopt a program like ours.”
The five recipients included Marianela Reyes, sponsored by the Hemophilia Foundation of Northern California, received a 2011 Toyota Camry that was donated by Farmers Insurance and refurbished by the crew Mike’s North Broadway location led by Managers Erica Randall & Sam Arvizu.
Now she can take the car to her son Luis to his medical appointments as well as transport her other children to school and other events. Reyes exclaimed when the car cover came off to reveal the Camry. “I will never ride the bus again!”
Sophia Martinez, sponsored by Shepherd’s Gate of Brentwood, received a 2012 Kia Optima donated by State Farm Insurance and refurbished by the crew at Mike’s Pittsburg location under the direction of Managers Angelina Yuen & Kent Osborn. Her two grandkids live with her and now all of their lives will be so much easier now with their Optima. When Martinez saw new bikes for her grandchildren, she teared up for just a moment. “Who are these people that do this for others? I can’t believe this!”
Melissa Lilly, sponsored by Ujima Family Recovery Services, received a 2016 Subaru Forrester donated by Liberty Mutual/Safeco and refurbished by the crew at Mike’s Concord VDM location led by Managers Kristen Fade and Tony Castagnetto. A widower with three children ages 4-11 Lilly can now pursue bigger and better things after receiving the gift of transportation, she said. “This car looks brand new!”
Rob A. Luis, sponsored by Turner East County Students/Special Needs Children Program, received a 2017 Toyota Camry, donated by CSAA Insurance and refurbished by the crew at Mike’s Fremont Street location under the direction of Managers Stacey Perkins & Nick Throne. Luis will no longer have to ride his bicycle up to 30 miles daily to and from his two jobs. “I’m inspired by this generous gift and will continue to pay it forward in every way I can,” he said with more than a dozen friends and relatives on hand to celebrate.
Janice Garrison, sponsored by Sparkpoint Contra Costa Shelter Inc., received a 2019 Nissan Sentra, donated by Enterprise Rent a Car and refurbished by the crew at Mike’s Antioch location led by Managers Cheryl Arvizu and James Maltbie. A single mom with three energetic daughters ages 1-7 (Amyrah, Aulani and Armani) Garrison is ready for her new car and a new life. “People don’t know unless they lose their transportation. Thank God for people like Sal and all of the other people at Mike’s Auto Body.”
Local companies that donated products and services include as Precision Brake Front End, MAB Towing, Big O Tires O’Reilly Auto Parts Antioch, FinishMaster, Keystone/LKQ, Concord Mitsubishi, Delta Dealer Services, Walnut Creek Toyota, Dent King, MM Star Smog, D & H Auto, MAB Towing, PPG Automotive Refinishing, Four Corners 76 Station, Pacific Rims, TechZone, Concord Nissan, Antioch Nissan, ServiceMaster Restoration Services, Geronimo’s Detail Toyota Walnut Creek, Lexus of Concord, Mel’s Dent Removal and Albany Subaru.