“It’s totally life-changing. It’s an added sense of security – I can get my kids to where they need to be on time, and get to work on time,” says Veronica G, a recipient of a car from St. Vincent de Paul’s Auto Assistance Program.

The Auto Assistance program has been a part of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County, (SVdP), for 4 years now, and has given out nearly 30 cars to neighbors in need. How does it work?

Claudia Ramirez (L) presents Veronica G. (R) and her young son Lucas with the keys to a Hyundai Elantra.

“SVdP accepts both running and non-running cars, and donors receive the full tax-deductible value of the vehicle. The cars that are non-running and beyond repair get sent off to auction through our SVdP National Vehicle Donation Program, and the vehicles that do run and need minor to moderate repairs we pair with a neighbor in need,” says Bonnie Casey, who handles intake for the program, “We’ve had an uptick in vehicle donations over the past couple of months.”

And that uptick has been a huge help for neighbors in need such as Veronica, who works full time and was relying heavily on public transportation, which isn’t known for its speediness and efficacy.

Empowering our vulnerable neighbors and handing them an important tool to help navigate their lives, such as a car, can help individuals and families take the next step in becoming financially stable. Without needing to factor in a cumbersome commute, people can be more efficient with their time, experience less stress, and have extra time in the day to tackle things that arise inevitably.

After donated cars get inspected by trained mechanics or volunteers who are mechanic savvy, necessary fixes are completed. We then get the smog inspections, and the vehicles are paired with people in need. There are usually six to 10 people on the waiting list for a car.

“I decided to donate after seeing an article in the East Bay Times over the holiday season,” says James W., a donor of a 2004 Nissan Frontier, “I had never thought of it before – but as soon as I found out about the program, I made my way down. If this can help another person then it has more value than whatever I could get for selling it.”

Bonnie Casey, (R) presents neighbor Rosemarie (L) with James’ donated 2004 Nissan Frontier.

“Our programs evolve to meet the needs of people we serve,” says Stephen Krank, Vincentian Services Manager, “We had a neighbor in her 60s who we were trying to help back onto her feet. She was able to get a job – but it was a swing shift position. She was walking home at 12:30 AM through a tough part of town to sustain herself. Not having reliable transportation can lead to not only dangerous situations but can present a real barrier to being able to achieve sustainability.”

“We do have public transit in Contra Costa County,” Steve continues, “But it is cumbersome and truncated. It may take a couple of hours just to go 20 miles. So an 8-hour shift becomes a 12-hour day for a minimum wage job. Previously, SVdP’s car donation program focused on auctioning off the vehicles and using the proceeds to fund our safety net programs like our free medical clinic and our free food pantries. We saw that providing the auto to someone in need could be life-changing, so SVdP began to provide cars that didn’t need many repairs to people in need at no cost.”

Each car donation is tax-deductible – and St. Vincent de Paul is always looking for more vehicles. Do you have a vehicle that is safe and can pass a smog test? Please give us a call at 925-439-5060 or send an email to cars@svdp-cc.org