So what exactly happens when you donate your car to Public Radio? Like you, I had heard the heart-warming promo spots during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Tales of beloved pickup trucks or hard-working family ox-carts, banged-up, french fried, and loved to death, finally put out to pasture for a good cause. The owners always sounded so wistful, yet so happy - finding an uplifting way to be shot of an old rust-heap they had loved for too long. How perfect. For years, I vowed that when the time came, I wanted to be as public-minded as these radio angels – I, too, wanted to give our old car to support WVPE.
Well, this month, faced with a 1990s Honda with no brakes and only half an engine, the time finally came.
Going to the WVPE web site, I clicked on the button marked Donate Your Vehicle. Bingo. Just like that, I was taken to an online form where I quickly stepped through three pages of questions about my vehicle, its age, condition, VIN number and so forth. At the end, I gave my contact information. And then I sat back and watched my inbox.
Almost immediately, I got an email in response. Only to my surprise, it wasn’t from WVPE.
Somehow, I think I had imagined that when I agreed to donate my vehicle it would be handled by the staff at the station here in Elkhart. That before long, Michael Linville and Ol Harv would show up at my house with a tow truck and a bunch of flowers to say thank you for your gift. Not so fast. It turns out, WVPE works with the national program based in New England, run by the Car Talk folks, called the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Services.
Of course, this added some extra steps they don’t tell you about in the ads. The email I received from the donation service informed me that in order to donate my car, I needed to sign the title and send it to their office in Rhode Island, where the official title work is done. This all felt a little scary to me, but I duly fished the title out and mailed it to the address provided.
Two weeks went by, and I didn’t hear a thing. Just when I was becoming concerned, I got an email from the Rhode Island folks, telling me that there was a problem with the way I had signed the title. Somehow, an “x” had appeared on the document, which meant I needed to submit an Indiana Affidavit of Correction so that the title could be amended. Yikes. But in a friendly gesture, the office attached the correct form to the email and all I had to do was complete it and mail it back. Another week passed. Then, finally, good news! The title work was in order and my donation to WVPE was complete.
Now to get the vehicle moved. I got a call at work from a friendly tow-truck guy in South Bend. He had been given my name and information and wanted to arrange a pickup for my vehicle. He said he’s come the next day, as long as the car was ready to go. Sure enough, the next afternoon he rolled up, carefully removed the license plate and put it inside our front screen door, hitched up the car and took it away. Just like that. In the end, it really was that simple, and three days later, WVPE sent me an official donation receipt for tax purposes.
The day I filled out the paperwork online, I received a personalized email from Catherine Fenollosa – the one they call Fraü Bleucher – at Car Talk. She wrote:
Thank you for turning your old car into your favorite public broadcasting programs… Now that you're a donor, we have a small favor to ask—a fun one, too! Nothing is more effective at encouraging your NPR fellow listeners to support the programs they love than a nudge from a friend!
So that’s what I’m doing today. We gave our old car to WVPE – it probably only paid for a few minutes of air time, but imagine if we all did the same. We’d cut the number of old cars on the road, and we’d support the best radio journalism in the nation. Won’t you join me?