The goal of Kidney Cars donations is to receive vehicles for donation to to either recycle cars or to re-sell them in order to raise the funds for our local Utah/Idaho mission: kidney patient medical emergency financial aid, local medical research, and kidney health & transplantation education.
However, in creating this vehicles-for charity program, we accidentally became advocates of reduce/reuse/recycle as well as environmental hazard experts and proper containment advocates. Around 2002, I’d hit my stride after 11 years of running Utah’s Kidney Cars donation program. I had around 15 contracts with local Utah crushers/recyclers and auction facilities. We made sure our vendors used proper ground cover, so vehicle liquids wouldn’t leak into local ground water. We made sure the facilities had proper containment equipment for Freon and battery disposal. By 2002, I’d probably walked 30-40 wrecking yards in my office penny loafers and clean beige slacks. I was always a curiosity to the workers. They’d look at me and wonder who this young girl was, being given a tour of the facility by the boss. It made me proud of the work I was doing for kidney patients, and for my literal neighbors. I enjoyed performing the due diligence of vetting an agency before contracting with them. I took it as a marker of equal opportunity if they were fair, honest and competitive in their pricing with me (after all, I was a young woman working for a charity, who could have easily been dismissed). But not only was I raising money for Utah’s most needy kidney patients, I was impacting the way wrecking yards were doing business in Utah by only contracting with responsible, clean, environmentally sound vendors. Utahns were giving their old cars away in droves, and in turn it changed who wrecking yards had to do business with: ME. I felt I was making a difference in my own community not just for kidney patients, but for the environment, and for women. Car sales, and vehicle salvage is a pretty male-dominated industry. I felt like I was crushing it (to use a phrase) by breaking through the ‘steel ceiling’ of the recycling industry in the name of charity and metal recycling.
As a kid in California I spent a lot of time with my Dad in the garage.
It was my job to help my dad remove car batteries (with my small bare hands) or use my tiny fingers to gently pincer a loosened spark plug or lost bolt out (it was the 1970’s and way before wrenches were smartly galvanized). I sat for many hours over open pans of gasoline with bare hands and a wire brush cleaning small nuts, bolts, and rings of gunk and build up. Years later, a very good friend (a member of the Greek orthodox community) in Salt Lake City developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma and died at the age of 37. We were the same age, and after his 3rd failed bone marrow transplant he came to the National Kidney Foundation of Utah offices one Christmas to offer a $15,000 donation for the patients. We had spent many hours together over the years talking about his impact in building a state-of-the-art parts/wrecking facility that would reduce his worker’s exposure to mercury and other toxic chemicals common to the wrecking industry. He told me in confidence, he felt the lymphoma could be a result of years of his childhood being exposed to these toxins. To that point, I had no idea that breathing benzene from close range was a bad idea. He had given the last years of his life to environmental containment and responsible recycling. When he knew he was out of the game of life for good, he donated to our cause and apologized he couldn’t do more. I was so touched, and so sad when he left us. I’ve never forgotten either his entrepreneurial spirit, his dedication to making lives better for his workers, or his kindness to his business partners.
Around that time a newcomer bought out a very established salvage pool. The owner’s surname was Newell.
Mr. Newell invited me to come to his facility to tour, so I did. When I arrived Mr. Newell told me his grandfather’s history in Texas, and showed me his grandfather’s invention: a vehicle crusher/ recycling machine. My Dad had been a mechanic, but this guys grandpa had engineered one of the first vehicle crusher/scrapers ever invented. It was a fascinating and terrifying Willy Wonka metal eater. He gave me a demonstration. They loaded a full sized car onto the conveyor belt, and a thick metal plate smashed the vehicle into a pancake about 12 inches tall. The weight would crush out the windows. The glass is collected below the crusher for recycling, and then the car is was conveyed up a ramp where metal hooks drew the flat vehicle hull into a tower. Once on top, the vehicle was dropped into metal jaws that worked like transmission final gear rings, working together to both smash and tear all the metal into tiny shards. What came out on the other end of the conveyor belt were shards of metal scrap. Mr. Newell handed me a handful of warm metal that had just been a Ford Taurus about 6 minutes earlier. Mr. Newell explained how important it was for the vehicles to be correctly drained of gasoline, Freon, antifreeze, battery acids, etc. or else the vehicle could explode (or emit poison into the air or ground). There had been years and years before in the wrecking industry, where environmental containment was not on a wrecking yard’s radar of responsibilities.
Years of experience has shown us the generosity of Utah and Idaho Kidney Cars donors, as well as the genius and common sense behind recycling.
Not only are vehicles (that have reached the end of their road) helpful to raise money for Utah kidney patients, but their retirement/recycling allowed for environmentally minded engineers and mechanics to put their genius to perfect use. The world became a cleaner place when recycling became the focus of wrecking yards. When we give our old cars to charity to buy a new one, it doesn’t just stimulate the economy (10% of the American economy is in the automotive industry), vehicle recycling it gives purpose to buying a newer vehicles with lowered emissions and cleaner fuel alternatives. So until we’ve come up with the perfect alternative to CO2 emissions, giving your old car to Kidney Cars (free towing and a tax deduction) makes perfect sense.
Go ahead; donate your old car locally at www.towKars.org
Kidney Kars is Utah’s original, longest running and one of the country’s most respected car-for-charity programs. Giving your old car to Kidney Kars is responsible, charitable, and environmentally friendly (particularly if you replace your old car with a more fuel efficient, lower emission vehicle. Donate your old car today. Call us 9-5/M-F (801) 226-5111 or donate locally (Utah & Idaho) using www.towKars.org