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Oct 30, 2007 - 11:20:00 PM - Print
By Tom Manning

Car Santa Giving Away Free Cars

KANSAS CITY - A Kansas City man is becoming well known in this region for his unusual Christmas-time gift-giving habits: Providing free cars to total strangers. Nick-named “The Car Santa”, he has provided hundreds of vehicles over the past 12 years to people who simply cannot afford transportation by any other means.

The Car Santa is Terry Franz, who began giving away cars in 1996. At the time, Franz owned a used car lot and sought a way to attract some publicity without spending a lot of money. That year he gave away six vehicles, and was pleased with the publicity he received.

Franz subsequently sold his lot and had no further need for publicity, but was so touched by the stories of the recipients that he continued the program.

He eventually incorporated “Cars 4 Christmas” as a 501 (c) (3) charity. The organization still relies principally on volunteers from the community and has virtually no paid overhead.

The charity receives donation vehicles from dealers and individuals. They are typically older, high-mileage vehicles that aren’t much to look at; they may have rust, dents, and faded paint. Franz utilizes a repair facility to inspect the vehicle and make necessary repairs to assure that it is mechanically sound and safe.

“Aesthetics are unimportant,” says Franz. “To someone whose only option is walking, even the most modest vehicle is cherished. It can provide a way to get to a job, a doctor’s appointment, or to the grocery store.”

Franz says the organization’s web site, cars4christmas.org, receives tens of thousands of requests each year for the free vehicles. Since the number of requests is overwhelming compared to the number of vehicles given away, the selection committee focuses on those they believe can best utilize the gift to make a difference in their lives.

“If we had a number of donation vehicles that approximated the number of requests, it would nice to be able to give people cars to make their life easier and more convenient. But if there is little hope of utilizing the vehicle to change their life circumstances, it is likely that they will get into a financial pinch sometime down the road and need to sell the car, or that it will need repairs they cannot afford and the car will get junked,” said Franz. Due to that philosophy, battered women’s shelters are given a high priority when it comes to making selections.

“Here are women who have had their life turned upside-down. Often there are dependent children that must be cared for, but they have been left with absolutely nothing materially and have to start their life again from scratch. Under those circumstances, having transportation can make all the difference.”

Veterans returning home to find the life they once had needs to be rebuilt and with no transportation it is difficult to get back into the work force.

Beside the events in Kansas City and Omaha that over 100 cars will be given away, Franz will also be delivering cars in ten cities across the nation this year on Christmas Eve.

“So often you hear about people getting into a downward spiral,” said Franz. “We believe people can get into an upward spiral as well. Often times transportation is the lynch pin to a better life. I could give away a thousand cars, and would still have people in need. We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but making an attempt to solve a few is far better than doing nothing.”

Despite the time and effort, and the fact that the charity never quite seems to break even, Franz says it is all worth it. “It’s a small price to pay when you see the positive difference we make in somebody else’s life.”


Contacts: Tom Manning W-(816) 322-7555 C-(913) 579-1678
Terry Franz W-(816) 322-7555 C-(913) 244-0582
http://www.cars4christmas.org
carsanta@cars4christmas.org





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