Guest Column: Vehicle donation program lives on

By: Tina Bakken
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The effects of the economic slump on America have become too much for some small businesses to bear. The Auburn area has seen more than a few businesses halt operations in order to stop the downward economic spiral, as well as the effects it has had on people’s own personal lives. As some businesses have shown, sometimes the mere age of a company isn’t enough to keep it going in these hard times. Sales go down; employment rates go down; the signs come down and the doors close. But just because things go down, doesn’t mean that they’re absolutely out. Such is my case. I closed Tina’s Garage on Aug. 1 after nearly five years at the helm of a business that had continually operated in Auburn for more than 48 years. However, the years I spent working in the community were not wasted. I have worked for more than 19 years in the automotive business, all of which have been in Auburn. Through my employment and in the 40 years I have lived in the Auburn, Ophir, and Newcastle areas I’ve built many contacts and gained more than a few friends. Though no longer a business owner, I continue my commitment to the community by staying involved in memberships with the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, Highway 49 Business Association and the Foothill Employer Advisory Council. More importantly, I have taken my commitment to the community a step further by continuing to serve as the program administrator for the Vehicle Donation Program for the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. Founded in 2000 by myself and my former employer, the Vehicle Donation Program, which continues on, operates exclusively for the financial benefit of the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. Over the past eight years, I have worked on taking in donated vehicles and liquidating them for cash. Once all hard costs are covered, the money is sent to the Boys & Girls Club. Hard costs include towing bills and smog checks, and sometimes parts and fluids. But I have never taken money from the program to cover my administrative time and supplies. That’s the part that makes this program unique in the world of charity car donations. Most programs, especially larger ones, rely on companies who operate solely for the purpose of processing the donated cars, and they take a hefty cut of the profits for their services. Instead of that business model, I have tapped into my resources and connections to keep the costs of the program down and the profits to the club as large as possible. Despite the current economic slowdown and the change in Internal Revenue Service tax laws, the program has raised more than $9,000 this year alone, for a total of more than $80,000 overall. If you would like to donate a car or truck, running or not, or if you have a resource and would like to be involved in this program, please give me a call at (530) 305-9499. Not all offers can be taken, but all are seriously considered. And my expertise in DMV paperwork with my “portable DMV office” can make the paperwork quick and simple, just in time for the new year. Tina Bakken is the former owner of Tina’s Garage. She can be reached at (530) 305-9499.