Westlake, Calif.—They were welcomed gifts for two veterans this holiday season.
Two Southern California veterans in need of reliable transportation recently received vehicles repaired by Cerritos Collision of Cerritos Nissan and CARSTAR in conjunction with the National Auto Body Council Recycled Rides program.
“The entire team at Cerritos Nissan (a Berkshire Hathaway company) pitched in to make this happen,” said Cerritos Collision Center Manager James D’Amore. “Body techs worked with each other and performed different phases of the body repairs and our paint team prepped and sprayed the vehicle. Our detail department did a complete detail prior to delivery, and our parts and service departments helped immensely with labor and parts donations.”
The Cerritos team repaired a 2014 Nissan Maxima, donated by Farmers Insurance, and it was the second year they participated in the program after being asked by Darren Huggins, who is the national collision director at Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, to participate. The Maxima had been hit in the rear end and had some minor damage to the front. Cerritos, which is Nissan and Infiniti-OEM certified, replaced a rear body panel, trunk lid, tail lamps and both bumpers.
“It’s very important to keep up on all OEM procedures and requirements with the rapidly advancing and changing technologies on all new vehicles,” D’Amore said. “We have 16 employees in the collision center and we do a lot of I-CAR training. I also have veteran technicians that do in-house training with our less experienced technicians — we work as a team from top to bottom.”
Presentation of the vehicles took place at the Farmers Insurance office in Westlake, Calif., on Dec. 18, and the cars will provide the recipients the independence and the ability to work and take care of their families, Huggins said. The two veterans who were selected by Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles are:
• Marnisha Mintlow, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and formerly homeless, received the Nissan. Mintlow is a 90 percent service-connected disabled veteran. She has completed her Masters in Business Administration and is working full time. With reliable transportation, Mintlow will be able to pick up food for homeless and seniors, take veterans to community meetings and lead a self-sufficient life.
• Christopher Brewer received a Mazda 5 from CARSTAR and is a U.S. Army veteran, a single dad with three young children and formerly homeless. Today, he is a student at Los Angeles Harbor College and has a small catering business called Brewer’s Side Eatery, through which he provides free catering to several local children’s groups to ensure they don’t go hungry.
“We are very grateful to be in a position to better a veteran’s life by doing what we do every day,” said D’Amore, who has been in the industry for 30 years after having started as a porter right after high school. “We are, of course, a business and strive to maximize our profitability, but it is great to work for a company that supports the community and wants to give back when we can. Our General Manager Brandon Bingham didn’t hesitate to give the go-ahead when presented with the opportunity.”