CARSON CITY — Wrecking yards are packed with cars that are crushed like an accordion. Many of them, however, just need the time, labor and expertise of auto body repair personnel to make them look and operate like new again.
A Chevrolet Cobalt with serious body damage was donated earlier this fall to Western Nevada College’s Career and Technical Education Division with a mission — restore the vehicle as part of a community-minded philanthropy project.
Through a partnership with the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program, along with the local Capital City Circles Initiative which assists families in need, WNC instructors and students reconstructed a 2009 Cobalt with the intention that it be presented to a family in the Circles program. The car was refurbished by Automotive Collision and Automotive Refinishing instructors Dennis Marshall and Mark Leonard, along with a number of students. WNC employees and local businesses contributed parts and materials to keep the cost of the project minimal.
“Mark and Dennis jumped at the opportunity and, along with their students, have been repairing the donated vehicle,” said WNC Director of Career and Technical Education Sherry Black, who oversaw the project. “The progress has been steady and has become a point of pride for all of those involved,”
In addition to their teaching duties, Leonard and Marshall both work full-time at area auto body shops. Yet, each made time to lead repair of the Cobalt.
“I’m really excited about this project, especially at this time of the year,” Marshall said. “The joy of being there to watch the family get the car will make everything well worth it.”
Marshall assumed the majority of the project’s labor — an estimated 60 hours. The instructors also received help with block-sanding and body work from students Donny McKay, Alex Garic, James Dempsey and Bob Andreasen, to complete the reconstruction.
“I just enjoy doing it,” said Marshall, about giving up his Saturdays to work on the car.
It’s the type of project that the NABF envisioned when it launched the Recycled Rides program in 2007, said NABC Executive Director Chuck Sulkala.
“It’s getting people self-sufficient and back on their feet again. By giving them use of the vehicle, they now have the ability to get to work, go shopping and get medical treatment.”
In only seven years, NABC’s Recycled Rides program has generated more than 800 donated vehicles. Sulkala expects vehicle donations to top the 1,000 mark by the end of the year.
He visualizes the program will branch out to include more schools like WNC in the future.
“Schools now get to teach classes with newer vehicles, and students get to work on those vehicles and they get to understand how it feels when you work to help people who are less fortunate,” Sulkala said.
State Farm donated the Cobalt to the college last spring after an accident left it with approximately $7,500 of damage. From a broken axle to the substantial damage to the right rear quarter panel, the vehicle needed many hours of labor to become road safe and presentable again.
Community participation began when Valley Towing delivered the Cobalt to WNC’s E.L. Cord Auto Technology Center at no cost. Parts and materials to complete the project were donated by Concours Parts & Accessories, All-American Auto Body & Service, Northern Nevada Auto Wrecking Group, Martin Auto Color, and Tri Valley Glass & Screen companies.
The project is a first for Capital City Circles, a Carson City nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering local families living in poverty through relationships with people across class lines.
“Through this partnership with WNC, the National Auto Body Council and the Recycled Rides program, we will be able to remove one of the barriers families face in their journey out of poverty,” said Circles Coordinator Brenda Silis. “We live in a community where having reliable transportation is vital to getting to work and being able to take care of your daily business.”
Silis said a Circles committee plans to decide which family is most in need of the refurbished car.
The presentation will take place at WNC’s El Cord Auto Technology Center at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 20.
“We are very excited,” Silis said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for them and shows that the community can come together to support ones in need.”
Black said she’s hopeful WNC can continue similar philanthropic projects in the future.
“Transportation for a family will be life-changing,” said J.W. Lazzari, WNC’s interim associate director of Financial Assistance and a member of the CCCI board of directors. “The new car will allow the individual to really change their life and continue to strive towards their goals.
“WNC strives to develop well-rounded students, and part of that includes developing and fostering commitment to the community,” he said. “The college’s participation in this project really embodies the Capital City Circles mission and helps our students see beyond the nuts and bolts of their trade and how the work they do can make a difference in someone’s life.”