Recycled Rides makes an important adjustment to business as usual
We are blessed to be part of a great community in the upstate of South Carolina. The economy is moving forward at a record pace. With all of this growth and development, it’s important that we develop our people for the jobs that are coming and the opportunities that are already here.
As with many communities, ours has folks from various backgrounds facing differing challenges in life. Some in our community could benefit from a hand up to better position themselves to contribute to this area that we love. In many cases, our local businesses and schools can help to create opportunities for these folks, possibly by a slight adjustment to business as usual.
In my job as department head of transportation at Greenville Technical College, I monitor all facets of the transportation industry and make calculated assessments on how we best meet the needs of each segment of the industry. It seems that no matter which business I am visiting, they all have the same needs: hardworking and dependable employees. Most businesses can find the capital, the equipment and the facilities, yet finding the right people seems to be the missing ingredient in many of these conversations.
What if some of those people we are looking for are stuck in a difficult season of life? Better yet, what if there was something that we could do to help those who are working to help themselves?
One of the challenges we see with many students is a lack of dependable transportation. Whether it is an old worn-out car or no car at all, it is hard to become a dependable employee if you are not sure you can get to work every day. Routine tasks become difficult or impossible without a vehicle. Granted, there is public transportation for those who live in town, but in our area far more people are living outside the routes of public transportation than living inside those routes.
In 2012, a coworker and I attended a conference in Detroit where we walked by a trade show booth for an initiative called Recycled Rides. This is a program created by the National Auto Body Council to repair collision-damaged vehicles and donate them to deserving individuals who are working to get their lives in order.
While in Detroit, I saw my first “gifting” ceremony. Once a car is repaired and the candidate selected, there is a small ceremony where the recipients and the repairers get to meet and the donors are recognized. The family receiving the car had been without transportation for several months because of a lost job. A local collision repair facility had worked with an insurer and various parts vendors to fix a lightly damaged insurance total loss for this family at no cost to the recipients. The family was so grateful, and the look on the faces of the technicians who repaired the vehicle was priceless.
As we left the conference, we knew that we had to bring this program to our community.
What we can do to help
We decided that somehow we had to get our students involved in helping others. Our job is to teach these students a trade, but also to help grow our community – and what a way to get them involved in a service-learning project. We knew that this would be our opportunity to help those in our community who needed help with transportation.
Last year, we started repairing vehicles for the Recycled Rides program. The students in our program have embraced the opportunity to use their skills to benefit those needing some assistance in order to get back on their feet. The students, through our undergraduate research program called Creative Inquiry, have learned not only specifics of repairing the car, but also how to approach sponsors of the repair, such as Allstate, CoPart, and Keystone Automotive, as they have worked with others to help secure the parts and vehicles to complete the project.
Not only do these cars give opportunity to those outside of the college, they teach our students the value of giving to others. Through Recycled Rides, we and our students have seen that sometimes business as usual can be adjusted to provide a hand up that benefits the entire community.
For more information, visit nationalautobodycouncil.org/programs/recycled-rides.