Car Donation Program Turns Dreams Into Reality

Posted 5/11/13

By Julie ConreySpecial to The RecordNatalya Middleton is a 19-year-old single mother from Marthasville with no income. She lives at home with her mother and three brothers, ages 18, 14 and 10.In …

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Car Donation Program Turns Dreams Into Reality

By Julie ConreySpecial to The RecordNatalya Middleton is a 19-year-old single mother from Marthasville with no income. She lives at home with her mother and three brothers, ages 18, 14 and 10.In spite of some setbacks, she envisions a better life for herself and her son. Middleton’s goal is to become a licensed counselor to domestic violence victims. She is taking classes at East Central College in Union to achieve her dream, and would like to get a part-time job. Without a car, and relying on her mother and her son’s father for rides, many would consider her dream a long shot.Fortunately there is Vinnie’s Autos. Vinnie’s Autos is a car donation and transfer program run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It is the only program of its kind run by the organization in the country. It sells pre-qualified individuals refurbished cars from their communities for well below market price. With reliable transportation, recipients can enroll in and attend classes at a college or vocational school, go to necessary medical appointments, or secure and maintain a job, all of which provides a way out of the poverty cycle.“This is an empowerment program,” said Greg Marino, coordinator of Vinnie’s Autos.Middleton just qualified to receive a car through Vinnie’s Autos. “It’s a huge blessing knowing I have a chance for a car. I am putting everything on the line for my son and family. I am a single mother trying to put a life together,” Middleton explained .Vinnie’s Autos clients can be initially referred to the program from many sources. Some are referred by their churches. Others are referred by nonprofit organizations. Some clients see the paper fliers advertising Vinnie’s Autos that volunteers distribute to area stores. Middleton’s mom Peggy found out about Vinnie’s Autos when she was shopping at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in St. Charles. Ultimately, a client is qualified by the St. Vincent de Paul conference that serves his or her geographical area.After a few phone calls, Middleton was referred to a St. Vincent de Paul volunteer caseworker at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Warrenton. Middleton and the caseworker completed paperwork that included giving her name, age, birthdate, income, number of individuals with whom she lives and Missouri driver’s license number. She also had to turn in a copy of her Missouri driving record.On car closing day, Middleton will have to provide proof of insurance. She is currently number six on the Northwest District’s waiting list to receive a car. It may be one week to three months before she buys one. “It all depends on how many cars get donated and if the cars are worth fixing or not,” Middleton said.Car CzarKevin Kolasch, who owns a leather supply company in St. Charles called Hide & Chic, is known as the car czar. He is responsible for Vinnie’s Autos in Warrenton, New Melle, St. Charles, O’Fallon, Wentzville, St. Peters and Cottleville. He travels his district frequently to promote Vinnie’s Autos to St. Vincent de Paul volunteers. “We need donated cars, and we’ll take them from anybody,” he said. “If you have a car you’d like to donate, call your nearest Catholic Church.”The need for cars is especially great in rural areas, Kolasch said, “in those areas that are more rural those chapters need to spread the word about Vinnie’s Autos.”“The extent of public transportation in a rural area is very limited,” said Chuck Eichmeyer, interim director of the Booneslick Regional Planning Commission for Warren, Lincoln and Montgomery counties. “We are always looking for different ways that we may be able to enhance transportation to the three county area.” But no changes are in place at the present time, Eichmeyer said.“People have to have transportation to get to work. (Vinnie’s Autos) is definitely filling a gap. I am glad that someone’s taking up that mantle,” said Scott Costello, president of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce.Vinnie’s Autos is run by a vast network of volunteers. It includes individuals who pick up donated vehicles of any kind, or have them towed, and scores of mechanics who either prepare cars to pass inspection, get them ready to sell on the wholesale market or break them down and sell usable parts. All money received from these vehicles are put back into the communities from which they come to help fix up vehicles for clients who have qualified to receive them.In 48 months, Vinnie’s Autos has helped 281 clients. There were 233 donations in the fiscal year that ended in September. The program helped 79 clients this past year.“The need is great everywhere,” Kolasch said.Once she has her car, Middleton hopes to be able to do the things she needs to do for her son like graduate from college and get a place of her own. Middleton’s speedy receipt of a car depends on the generosity of people who live in St. Charles and the surrounding areas. Cars donated within the Northwest District are repaired in the Northwest District, and are sold to clients who live within the northwest district.“It’s a whole lot of fun to be able to pass on a key to a client,” Kolasch said. His payoff is giving a client an opportunity for a brighter future.Anyone having any type of vehicle (or boat, motor home, or motorcycle) to donate is encouraged to call the nearest Catholic church or the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. To find a Catholic church, log on to and click on the find your parish tab. Donors can also call 314-881-6005. All donors receive a tax deduction. Donors don’t need to be Catholic nor do car recipients. The program helps anyone in need.

Natalya Middleton and her son Jayden.