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The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and Farmers Insurance announced that their vehicle donation program to support collision schools had its biggest year ever in 2021.
“By the end of November, we already had delivered over 30 vehicles to schools so far in 2021 with many others in progress,” said Ken Kowalski, auto salvage consultant for Farmers Insurance. “Previously, our biggest year was 28 donations in 2019. This year, we’re proud to announce that we’ve set a new record for donations delivered.”
Since the program began in 2016, it has not only grown, it has evolved. The program’s original iteration called for vehicles to be repaired by students and sold at auction, with the proceeds benefitting both CREF and the participating school. In addition to selling the vehicle at no charge, Copart donated towing services to help ensure the vehicles reached the schools.
“We have come a long way from those beginnings,” said Kowalski. “We learned that different schools have very different needs. While some schools repair vehicles to return them to service, others use vehicles to help teach students to use frame machines. Others are used repeatedly for students to learn assembly and disassembly or as a classroom learning aid, and some are repaired.”
After repairing donated vehicles, several schools then partnered with the National Auto Body Council to give the vehicle to someone in need through the Recycled Rides program. Kowalski shared one of his favorite uses of a donated vehicle: “After repairing the vehicle, the school gave it to a low-income student who was graduating from the program to ensure they would have transportation to get to their new job at a body shop.”
The current program has been streamlined for simplicity. After identifying a school in need of a vehicle donation, CREF acts as liaison between Farmers and the school, facilitating completion of vehicle selection and title transfers, ultimately resulting in the vehicle being delivered to the school.
“Cars are definitely the most requested item from school collision programs,” said Melissa Marscin, director of operations and administration for CREF. “We are very grateful to Farmers for stepping up to help fulfill this need and to give students the ability to practice on newer vehicles.”
Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting CREF’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, managing director, at (312) 231-0258 or [email protected]. Monetary donations can be made online.