Car Donations Are Valuable

Ali Walton poses with Shonda, her 1999 Toyota Camry that was donated to WYPR. (Photo provided)

Shonda had been a valued member of Ali Walton’s family for nearly two decades. But it was time to say goodbye.

“There were a lot of great memories with that car,” said Walton, who received the 1999 Camry from her parents, the previous owners, and named her Shonda. “I remember when the car kicked over 100,000 miles. My mom was driving with my sister and me. She kept counting down when the odometer was about to switch over. And then when it finally did, she pulled the car over to the side of the road in a safe spot. She got out of the car and danced around it to commemorate the 100,000 mark. Then we got out and joined her.”

After moving to Baltimore from Washington, D.C., Walton would listen to WYPR radio on her daily commute, learning about her new home while driving an old friend. “Listening to WYPR every day was a good way to get to know about the city,” she said.

So, it was not surprising that when Walton decided to purchase a new car, she chose to donate Shonda to WYPR and support public radio. “It felt like the right thing to do,” she said.

It’s a gesture that is much appreciated not only by WYPR, but also by organizations such as Goodwill and Catholic Charities, with donations ranging from a Bentley and a Jaguar (WYPR) to a riding lawn mower (Goodwill) and everything in between including boats, planes, campers and motorcycles. “We have a saying that we take anything that rolls, floats or drags,” said Carolyn Jewell, director of membership at WYPR.

An unwanted vehicle donated by one person could be a great asset to another, said Jonathan Balog, vice president for marketing and communications for Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, Inc.

“For us,” said Balog, “it is a way to continue our mission, helping us help the people who are most needy for training and employment opportunities. Your car can literally help someone find a job.”

Added Rena Daly, director of communications for Catholic Charities of Baltimore, “You’re making a difference. And it’s a way for people who give to us to give back to their neighbors in need.”

To encourage vehicle donations, representatives of all three say there is a focus on making it as simple and stress-free as possible. “We want it to be a seamless process,” said Jewell.

And with results. WYPR has received more than 400 vehicles so far this year. Goodwill is anticipating receiving about 300 vehicles for 2017. “Actually, we’re going to have about a 25 percent increase from last year,” said Balog of the local branch of the charity. And Catholic Charities of Baltimore has received more than 120 vehicles to date.

“It could not have been easier,” said Sheila Laderberg Tarasiuk, who donated a 2006 BMW to WYPR. Walton agreed. “That was the best part about it for me,” she said. “It was very smooth. I didn’t have to put a lot of effort toward it, which was nice. It wasn’t a hassle, and it was going toward something I believed in and wanted to support.”

WYPR, Goodwill and Catholic Charities all offer the option of donating online or by phone. The vehicle is even picked up and towed away.

Once taken, vehicles are sold through wholesale auctions, and older, damaged and problem vehicles may be sold to dismantlers or recyclers for valuable parts and metals. WYPR and Goodwill will take vehicles that are running or not. Catholic Charities prefers “vehicles in good working order,” said Daly.

A Bentley, such as this one donated to WYPR, can get the donor a tax break and the radio station some helpful funding. (Photo provided)

WYPR works through Car Talk Vehicle Donation Services, which is connected to the popular NPR radio talk show “Car Talk.” Goodwill works with National Charity Services to handle its vehicle donations program. And Catholic Charities works with an auto auction facility, BSC America, in Bel Air, Md.

The benefits to donors are not limited to just helping a cause of their choice. There is the tax deduction that comes with it. Donors are entitled to deduct the sale price of the vehicle if it sells for more than $500. However, if the vehicle sells for less, the donor can deduct the fair market value of the vehicle up to $500. Donors also benefit by being able to reduce taxable income when taxes are itemized. And the organizations provide the needed paperwork, such as sales receipts and tax forms.

“This is such a great way to make a major gift if you are on a budget,” said Laderberg Tarasiuk. “This enables you to make that gift when maybe you couldn’t have otherwise.”

Even if it can be a bit bittersweet. Prior to donating Shonda, Walton posted a picture of her and Shonda on Instagram saying goodbye to the reliable car, which would now “fund my favorite programs.”

“I was happy to get a new car,” she said. “But I was happy to donate to WYPR too.”

Lisa Gregory is a local freelance writer.

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