How Old Cars Lead to New Lives for Veterans

Have you been considering donating a vehicle to charity for the tax deduction? You might wonder can that junker sitting in my driveway really make a difference? Ask Cedric. Cedric is a veteran, one of the many vets whose lives are changed through donated cars like yours. His story demonstrates the powerful effect of charity car donations and donating cars to veterans:

Cedric’s early memories are of abandonment and isolation. Cedric’s mom wasn’t around and his Dad was a compulsive gambler who had little time for the two small children living under his roof. Cedric and his sister were left to fend for themselves.

Cedric enjoyed going to school and learning, but every day he faced the humiliation of having to wear tattered clothes. In his poverty, even basic school supplies like pencils and paper were hard to come by. After years of struggle, sixteen-year-old Cedric dropped out of school and joined the Army.

By his 18th birthday Cedric was on the front lines in Vietnam. The structure of the Army was good for him. He felt like he belonged, like he had a family at last. But that sense of family came at a cost: the terrible things he saw left lasting scars that haunted him long after he was honorably discharged.

On returning home to Michigan, Cedric took a job in Dearborn at Ford Motor Company’s engineering research center. He was proud of his new career, but felt his old feelings of isolation returning, since he was the youngest person in his department. He was alone and scared once again; this time with horrible images of Vietnam battlefields playing in his head.

As he tried to control his demons, Cedric turned his life over to another demon. He began to drink without stopping, and without thoughts of the consequences. One day he completely totaled a costly prototype vehicle he was driving, an accident that almost cost him his life. The accident cost Cedric his job, and his life began to spiral out of control. Cedric moved from place to place, taking any odd job he could get: distributing flyers, handing out tickets at a parking structure. At first he managed to support himself, but then the substance abuse began to eat up more and more of his time and income. Cedric was kicked out of his apartment and cast homeless onto the streets. He was addicted and alone.

But then Cedric reached out for help – help made possible by people donating cars to vets. Cedric went to one of the many homeless shelters in Michigan funded by your charitable vehicle donations to Volunteers of America. Although he stumbled along the way, Cedric began to get his life back with the help of the Veterans in Progress program. While in the program he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Paranoid Schizophrenia. Like many homeless vets, Cedric’s road to recovery had many setbacks as he struggled with scars left by war and a father who had abandoned him. He relapsed and was homeless for six more years before coming back to Volunteers of America veterans programs underwritten by people donating cars to vets. Cedric says “I finally woke up and smelled the coffee after 50 years of bad choices. These good people fed me, they got me out of the elements, clothed me and did right by me. They offered me an opportunity as a veteran to make a real change and I took it.”

Cedric lived and worked with the Veterans Housing Program – the same program underwritten by charitable vehicle donations. He got clean and sober and began to set priorities for his life. “Now that I can think clearly, I can set goals for myself and visualize the path I need to take. I want my own home, a car and a job.” Cedric’s story is not over. He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s hopeful that this time, he’s done it right. He’s on a life-long path of recovery and will continue to walk that path. Just like any of us, Cedric just wants a life with stability, love and connection; and now, thanks to the programs funded by charitable vehicle donations, he has a chance to have the life he’s always wanted.

Thinking about donating cars to vets? Volunteers of America uses car donations to fund clinics, shelters and job training for tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the USA. Check out CarsHelpingPeople.org or call 877-721-4862 to see how we’re helping vets near you. Your old car can mean a new life – donate a car and help a veteran today.

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