The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 3, 2013

Vehicle donation lands first hybrid

Edie Schmierbach
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — As usual, Dan Jones was happy about the number of year-end vehicle donations he is getting ready to have refurbished. But there was a pleasant surprise among the seven used vehicles given to the Wheel Get There program on Monday — a 2005 Prius.

“It’s our first hybrid,” Jones said Wednesday.

The private party who donated the car — which has 246,000 miles on its engine and is valued at $5,000 — should get a 2012 tax break along with a good feeling that someone with a limited income will be able to purchase a reliable vehicle for a price within the new owner’s budget.

Minnesota Valley Action Council’s Wheel Get There program arranges for donated vehicles to be reconditioned, then sells them at discounted prices to eligible drivers in need of inexpensive, dependable transportation to drive to their jobs, medical appointments, children’s schools and grocery stores.

Jones has made it a New Year’s Eve tradition to accept the donations until the last minutes of 2012 at the MVAC office.

In 2012, a total of 150 vehicles was donated to the program. Even if a car is full of dents, not very new, or not fuel efficient, the program will probably accept it — if it’s a good runner.

“The most interesting car I received was dropped off after dark, at the end of the day Monday,” Jones said. Later, when he went to move it out of the parking lot, Jones found broken handles on both of the vehicle’s two doors. He was puzzled about how to get behind the wheel until he noticed the string that had been rigged to pull up a handle. Doors can be fixed, so the donation was accepted.

“It runs and it drives well,” he said.

The MVAC program has been receiving donated vehicles and offering tax deductions to donors since 1998. It’s helped hundreds of families. This year, Jones plans to take the mission of helping others one step further.

Part of the profits — about $20 — from the sales of vehicles donated between Dec. 26, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2013, will be given to MVAC’s heating assistance program. So far, 11 cars have been donated within that time frame.

When someone donates a car, it’s heartwarming, so why not use a little of the proceeds to heat homes?” Jones said.

For more information about Wheel Get There, including how to donate a vehicle, call Jones at 345-0446 or 800-767-7139.