By Woody Woodrick
Butch Royal was moved by what he saw on a recent visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
While some progress has been made in recovering from Hurricane Katrina, many people still have hardships, especially in housing.
What could one man do?
How about coming up with an idea that could provide recovery funding for many years?
Royal, working with Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Recovery, has developed a plan where donated automobiles will be auctioned and the proceeds sent to help hurricane victims.
“It was a third-world environment,” Royal said of his impression of living conditions on the Gulf Coast. “I had to do something to put money into helping individuals.”
Donors across the nation can call the Vehicle Donation Processing Center in California to offer a car, truck, boat, motorcycle or recreational vehicle. The center will pick up the vehicle, have it auctioned and then send the money to the Mississippi recovery team. The program is patterned after a similar one used by the Kidney Foundation.
“Anyone in the nation can donate a vehicle,” said Royal, a 43-year veteran of the auto industry.
Royal, a member of Wells Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson, said he understands how churches might want to help more with Katrina recovery but are pressed for funds. Royal served on church finance committees in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and at Wells.
Robert Sharp, director of the recovery effort for the Mississippi Conference, praised the plan, which was unveiled at Annual Conference.
“It means a lot, especially with finding funds to help families,” he said. “UMCOR funds eventually run out. This will help with funding beyond that.
“This has the potential to help more people quicker,” Sharp said.
Sharp said information about the program will be sent to 16 annual conferences that have invited visitors from Mississippi to talk about the recovery.
Royal, who works for Mid-South Auto Auction in Jackson, said the average donated vehicle is worth $1,000. “If we get half of the United Methodist churches in the nation interested and half of those make a donation, the amount raised could run into the millions,” he said.
Sharp said the Kidney Foundation raised $1.5 million its first year of accepting donated cars. He said the United Methodist connection could play a big role in helping raise funds.
“This is a wonderfully creative idea that has great potential,” said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. “I hope everyone will spread the word and that many people will want to take part.”
Mid-South supported the project from the beginning, Royal said, noting that the industry fights a bad reputation. “The auto industry has always been at the forefront of giving back to others,” he said.
To donate a vehicle to help Hurricane Katrina victims, call the Vehicle Donation Processing Center at 1-800-269-6814.