Bates Collision Centers of Houston, Texas, announced that it has donated two refurbished vehicles to two needy families as part of a 16-year tradition of giving.
April Fulghum, mother of three, received her gift-wrapped vehicle on Dec. 17 at Bates’ Channelview location, and Neila Gaona, mother of two, drove away in her vehicle on Dec. 18 from the Baytown site. Both Fulghum and Gaona are struggling moms who were picked to receive the vehicles by the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Head Start program.
“We are now in our 16th year of our Bates Collision Christmas tradition, and we will present our 27th and 28th vehicles this month,” said Leila Bates, co-owner of Bates Collision Centers. “But it never gets old. It’s so fun to see our employees still get excited about revealing their Christmas gift on wheels to families they’ve never met.”
Both Leila and her husband, Lee, see the difference the cars make in the lives of the Head Start families. They call the tradition of gifting the cars a “hands-up, not a hand-out.”
HCDE Head Start Director Venetia Peacock says the call for nominations from Head Start managers goes out each fall. Criteria include submittal of a personal essay from each applicant. The responsible parenting award weighs volunteering their child’s school along with self-improvement aspects such as a higher education and job training to better the family.
“Getting a car is a life-changing event,” Peacock said. “It also puts everyone who attends in the holiday spirit of giving.”
Readying the car was a community effort as local businesses donated paint, insurance, tires, gift cards and volunteer hours. This year, the Baytown Sterling High School baseball team provided gifts for one family.
“We put cars back on the road every day,” said Leila Bates. “It’s what we do, but repairing these cars has a special twist. We’re putting more than just a car back on the road. We are putting a family back on the road – the road to independence.”