Benevolence Fuels Metairie’s Clean Fleet Auto Body
Call it a car with compassion.
It brakes for benevolence, has gaskets of good will and contains a heater for a heart.
Clean Fleet Auto Body in Metairie is looking to donate a restored used car, insurance and a trunk load of gifts to one deserving family whose life would be changed forever if given their own means of transportation.
“It’s the satisfaction of being able to give back to the community,” David Raymond, Clean Fleet’s operations manager said. “On a daily basis we’re in the grind, we go to work, we get it done. But this is totally different. It’s benevolent. An act of kindness you don’t get to see every day. I know it’s going to change somebody’s life, and that’s what I enjoy about it.”
It’s the 2nd time since 2011 that Clean Fleet will be instituting their Benevolence Program. The collision repair service will be switching gears to rehab a 2012 Chrysler 200 limited edition with leather seats, donated by Moon’s Towing, for a family in need.
With parts donated by contracted partners and hours of free labor generously given by Clean Fleet’s 19 employees, this “new” used car will be souped-up and ready to go when it’s awarded during a Patron Party on Friday, December 18, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. at Clean Fleet, 4432 Hearst St.
“We’re looking for someone who needs a hand up, not looking for a handout,” Raymond said. “Someone who is trying to improve their family’s lives, and this car will make a difference.”
Clean Fleet is now accepting applications, through Sunday, November 1, and asking for interested parties to submit a 1-page narrative explaining how this vehicle will assist their families in becoming more self-sufficient. Clean Fleet is also asking for applicants’ resumes and current DMV driving record reports.
In 2011, the auto body team chose a single mom with 2 kids to drive away in a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser, donated by Rock & Roll Wrecker Service. Raymond said they brought the car, with $15,000 in repairs, parts, paint, insurance and gifts, back to life.
Raymond said the recipient was a victim of domestic violence, worked for the daycare her children attended, worked 2 additional jobs and used to catch rides from friends while trying to hide from her abusive husband.
“That car made a world of difference to her,” Raymond said. “And we’re trying to do the same for another lucky family.”
Raymond said Clean Fleet is the preferred auto body shop for Crescent Ford Trucks and Lexus of New Orleans, and fixes an average of 120 cars a month, clearing $3.5 million in annual sales.
Open for 30 years, Clean Fleet helps handle customers’ insurance claims and rehabs wrecked cars to factory specifications. Raymond said if a car is involved in an accident, their shop can restore it to pre-accident condition. “If you can tell it’s been fixed, we didn’t do our job,” he said.
Raymond decided to start a Benevolence Program at Clean Fleet after seeing the idea work in California, where he lived for 3 years after Hurricane Katrina.
Raymond and his family were renting a home in Lakeview before the storm. When they found out all their possessions were destroyed, they moved to a suburb outside of San Francisco. Raymond worked at an auto body shop there before returning to New Orleans in 2008.
“I told Clean Fleet we had to do the same thing here, give away a car to a family in need, and we made it happen in 2011,” he said. “We’re doing it again this year, and plan to do it every year from now on.”
Raymond said in 2011 all the work on the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser was performed by their in-house certified technicians, and paint, parts and glass were all donated by the manufacturers they often work with. What really revs his team’s engine, Raymond said, is they get to choose the recipient for their labor of love.
“My guys work on more than 100 cars a month,” Raymond said. “They’re wielding panels and fixing dents. This Benevolence Program allows them to read through all the applications and narrow the list down to just one family. The guys choose the winner, and they’re the ones who hand the keys over at the Patron Party. They’re all involved; they all get up on stage. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”
Donors will also be recognized by name or logo on a stage billboard, and will be announced during the December 2015 Patron Party.
Raymond said Clean Fleet not only builds new cars out of wrecked ones, they get a lot of mileage out of their Benevolence Program because it builds camaraderie among the staff.
His team will need to put in a minimum of $13,000 into fixing up the 2012 Chrysler 200, and they’re looking for more donations and some cash to help.
“Insurance companies would deem this car a total loss,” Raymond said. “But because the car and everything is donated, it’s economically feasible to fix this car up and give it to a deserving family. We’ll even be donating 6 months or a year of free insurance, and hope to throw in free oil changes and gas cards, anything to cover any expenses with the car for at least a year.”
Raymond said many local businesses are contributing to an additional prize package. He said Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket is donating 7 bags of groceries, just as they did for the 2011 winner, and Superior Grill and Grand Isle restaurants are donating some gift certificates.
Raymond said by November, Clean Fleet will be in overdrive getting the car ready to be driven off their lot. He said they’ll be holding a fundraiser (place and date TBA), and will gratefully accept anything anyone wants to donate to their Benevolence Program.