One deserving student veteran at Western Nevada College wonâ€™t ever forget Veterans Day 2015.
For the third time in a year, WNC has donated a refurbished automobile restored by students and faculty to a community member. WNC President Chester Burton and previous recipient Michael Atkinson made the presentation to U.S. Army veteran Joseph D. Alton III on Wednesday morning. Alton received a refurbished 2007 Hyundai Sonata during a ceremony at E.L. Cord Automotive Technology Center at the WNC Carson City campus.
â€œIt means a lot to our family because our one vehicle is totally a loss. This is going to help out a lot,â€ Alton said.
The donation stemmed from the collegeâ€™s continuing collaboration with the National Auto Body Councilâ€™s Recycled Rides project and State Farm Insurance Company. Recycled Rides brings together colleges such as WNC, insurance companies, auto body shops, paint suppliers and parts vendors to repair damaged vehicles for donation to deserving community members and service organizations.
Alton served eight years in the Army, including time with the 3rd Infantry Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom during the initial surge into Baghdad. Since enrolling at WNC, Alton has been instrumental in the creation and development of the Student Veterans Club. He served as the clubâ€™s treasurer and vice president, and as a peer mentor in the Veterans Resource Center, helping other student veterans to transition from soldier to scholar.
â€œAfter his service, Joseph came back and went back to college with his wife at WNC to make a better life for himself, a better life for his family and prepare for a career,â€ said WNC President Chester Burton, who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. â€œBut he didnâ€™t stop there. He was one of the founders of the collegeâ€™s veterans club, which has now grown far greater than any of us could have imagined and plays a tremendous role in helping the men and women who are transitioning from a military career to a civilian career.
â€œIt is fully fitting that as a community, including State Farm, the college and Recycled Rides, that we can come together to present a car to recognize and say thank you for everything heâ€™s done, and also meet a need. At the end of the day, thatâ€™s why we are here at the college.â€
State Farm donated each of the vehicles WNC has given away, following repairs made by students and instructors in automotive collision technology classes.
â€œState Farm sees the potential of the program and likes the fact that the car is going to a veteran,â€ said Clay Murray, an agent with State Farm Insurance in Carson City. â€œItâ€™s a great fit. I served in the military, so Iâ€™m a big fan of this.â€
Veteran Kevin Burns, WNCâ€™s Veterans Resource Center Coordinator and the Master of Ceremony at the event, is pleased that communities are doing more today for veterans when they return to civilian life.
â€œItâ€™s very gratifying to finally be doing a lot more to take care of veterans,â€ Burns said.
Burns said that the stipend that veterans receive from the Veterans Administration can disappear very quickly since they are often caring for more than themselves.
â€œItâ€™s very difficult to raise a family when you start talking about housing, food costs, insurance and education,â€ Burns said. â€œItâ€™s a great program through State Farm and Recycled Rides. We also want to thank the guys over at the auto shop; those guys do all of the work.â€
A five-member committee, including Atkinson, selected Alton, who is married with three children.
â€œWe look at people who have given back to a community and those types of qualities,â€ Burns said. â€œSomeone who gives back to the Carson City community, those are people who should be rewarded.â€
In December 2014, students and instructors at E.L. Cord Automotive Technology Center refurbished a 2009 Cobalt for a Carson City single mother of three. On July 4, WNC presented a 2006 GMC Envoy to Atkinson, a veteran enrolled at the college. Both recipients continue to be involved with the program and give time and energy so others can benefit from their good fortune.
The Hyundai Sonata was restored in an Auto Collision Technology/Recycled Rides class this fall. Instructor Joseph Ouellette said the class was created to work on WNCâ€™s ongoing Recycled Rides projects. Students can help repair body damage on their own vehicles until a vehicle is provided by Recycled Rides for donation. To lower repair costs, businesses in the community donated parts and materials.
â€œThis is a community-driven program,â€ Ouellette said. â€œWhen people come to the E.L. Cord building and see the facilities and equipment that we have here, the thing we always hear is, â€˜We had no idea this was here.â€™ â€
For the most recent restoration project, D & S Tow has continued to transport Recycled Rides vehicles to WNC. Dick Campagniâ€™s Carson City Hyundai donated authentic hubcaps, an interior carpet kit and a rear trunk badge. Northern Nevada Auto Wrecking Group donated a door. Martin Auto Color supplied paint and materials. Prestige Car Wash & Detail Center handled detailing of the vehicle.
â€œThese people didnâ€™t require convincing,â€ Ouellette said. â€œThey enthusiastically supported the project and gave us everything we asked for. They have also encouraged us to contact them for future projects.â€
This is the third car that WNC, Recycled Rides and State Farm have collaborated on for donation.
â€œPeople in the community recognize the value of this program and are quick to volunteer participation,â€ Ouellette said.