Veteran granted gift of a car through special program
By Sonia Duggan
A special veteran was given a heroes welcome at the Caliber Collision Center on Westgate Way in Wylie May 8.
Mark Ventura, a local U.S. Air Force and Desert Storm veteran, was awarded a “recycled ride” through Caliber’s program, in partnership with AAA Texas.
Greg Clark, sr. vice president of marketing at Caliber Collision, kicked off the program. Clark introduced the team that helped make the 63rd recycled ride possible before introducing Ventura and unveiling the car.
“The program is a collaborative effort putting heads, hearts and hands together to do the gifting,” Clark said.
“AAA Texas was the head, the employees were the hearts and the Caliber team was the hands.”
The vehicle that Ventura received was provided by AAA Texas and refurbished by Caliber Collision associates who volunteered their personal time as a community service.
“We saw an opportunity to honor a veteran by participating in a direct way,” Courtney Young, AAA Texas Claims Manager said.
Ventura earned multiple awards during his two tours as a U.S. Air Force F15 Fighter Crew Chief. He was nominated for the Recycled Rides program by Allies In Service, a local veteran support organization. Ventura’s lack of reliable transportation and his determination to succeed, among other reasons, earned him the honors.
David Whitley, the Allies in Service representative said Ventura does a lot to help other veterans.
Despite his own challenges, he is committed to helping support his fellow veterans. He has volunteered with the Vietnam Veterans of America just outside of Denton and worked with a nonprofit organization based in New York City to help end homelessness within the veteran population. In addition, Ventura is active in many local veteran support organizations in the Dallas area.
Getting to work was a challenge for Ventura. Living in Lewisville, he often borrowed his roommate’s car. He would drop off his roommate at his workplace in downtown Dallas before going back to Corinth for his own job as a riding instructor for Spirit Horse International Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc.
The newly refurbished 2013 Ford Fiesta will enable Ventura to travel back and forth to work freely saving him time and the extra miles of travel each day.
Despite the often-debilitating effects of PTSD, anxiety, depression and OCD, Ventura powers through daily challenges to rebuild not only his life but also those of his fellow veterans.
Recycled Rides is a nationwide program of the National Auto Body Council in which collision industry businesses team up to repair and donate vehicles to individuals in need.
“We thank Mr. Ventura for his years of service to our country and are honored to provide him with this gift of transportation to help him restore the rhythm of his life,” said Todd Dillender, Caliber Collision Vice President of Operations. “Caliber Collision is committed to supporting our local communities and military veterans like him who have given of themselves for our freedoms.”
In addition to AAA Texas and Caliber Collision, Rich’s Muffler, Elite Auto Glass, RPM Auto Service, Auto Accents and LKQ also contributed toward the restoration of the donated car.
In the past three years, Caliber Collision has donated more than 60 vehicles nationwide. Caliber plans to donate at least 25 more vehicles in 2015 to military service members, veterans and first responders as a way to give back to the communities that Caliber serves.