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January 2002 Rant

"Donate Your Old Car"

Take a look at the ad to your right. This ad appeared in the Richmond Newspaper several times during the month of December. The American Lung Association has a vehicle donation program that it claims will send children to asthma camp and “everyone will breathe easier”. Why would the American Lung Association, an organization that has called for extreme measures to clean our air actually collect old cars? Maybe it’s because the Kidney Foundation has been making quite a bit of money from vehicle donations. The Kidney Foundation web site claims that the organization took in 69,000 donated vehicles last year. If they were able to make a profit of only $100 per vehicle then they netted $6.9 million. No wonder the Lung Association and the American Cancer Society have both started vehicle donation programs. The Cancer Society also ran newspaper ads.

The program works like this. You get a value for your old unwanted car from one of the auto price guides. Then fill out a form and the organization sends a wrecker to pick it up. You might get more as a tax deduction than you could get for selling the car especially if the car needs a lot of cosmetic repair. Since these organizations are non-profit the government has given the green light to these programs.

Let’s take a closer look at the American Lung Association vehicle donation program. I first went to their web site to learn about the program. They take cars 1988 and newer. If you have an older car you must call to see if they will take it. I found three web sites all with the single purpose of collecting donated cars for area lung associations. One of the web sites had a small photo of a 67 Mustang. I guess they will take old Mustangs and other older valuable vehicles. I did find out why they would only take 1988 and newer cars. It’s because they sell them. I called the local lung association using the number on the ad. I spoke with a friendly woman who informed me that yes, they sell the cars. They do not crush them or take “polluters” off the road. I asked about the asthma camp and if all funds from the selling of cars go solely for the camp. She said no, the funds go towards all their projects and that collecting the cars was just another way of making money for the organization. I told her that I couldn’t find the asthma camp program on their web site. I did find a report card for clean air for the state of Virginia. The lung association gave all the localities in the state either an “F” or an “*” for air quality. Those with the asterisk did not have enough information available to grade them. I assume there wasn’t enough information available to give them an “F”. See for yourself at www.lungusa.org/air2001/states/s_va.html. (opens to a new window)

The American Cancer Society has also recently started a vehicle donation program. They are more honest on their web site. They state that the funds raised will go to all their projects. The Kidney Foundation does the same. The Kidney Foundation, unlike the lung association, will take all cars, trucks, RV’s and boats that are in one big piece regardless if they run or are old. Here’s a quote from their web site:

“Since 1992 the Kidney Cars Program has removed from the highway thousands of unwanted vehicles, some of which are ten years old or older and have a high level of emissions that pollute the air and destroy the ozone layer.”

This, as we say in the sticks where I live, is a bunch of crap. The Kidney Foundation tries to sell all of the donated vehicles. It does not matter what the age or condition. Those that cannot be sold to individuals are sold to junkyards. A friend of mine donated a 1974 Chevelle to the Kidney Foundation. This six-cylinder sedan had over 300,000 miles on it and was definitely in the clunker category. He later saw a family riding around in the car in Richmond. Keeping that car on the road in its condition did not help to clean the air. Here’s another quote from the Kidney Foundation web site that is more honest:

“All Kidney Cars that are no longer in working order are used for parts and, ultimately, shredded. The availability of these parts means a cost savings passed on to the consumer”

I know that is true because I’ve taken parts off the Kidney Foundation’s donated cars at a local junkyard.

While I can understand organizations having vehicle donation programs in order to raise funds, I cannot understand the American Lung Association having such a program. This organization has been on the opposite side of car hobbyists for years. They have been claiming the air is in terrible shape. In November representatives from the association appeared at DEQ headquarters and argued for vehicle emissions testing in the Richmond area. Don’t you think it is a little hypocritical of them to use old cars to help raise money for their causes?

The American Lung Association ad states in large letters “Let your old car take a child to camp”. If you want to get that kid to camp I suggest you put him in the old clunker and drive him there. The goal of these vehicle donation programs is to simply make money for the organization. And with a little more honesty in advertising “everyone will breathe easier”. I know I will.

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