When Army veterans Pamela Washington and Tanya Mann started up their restored cars, cheers erupted from the almost 40 people who attended the presentation at Autobody Resurrection Carstar on George Jenkins Boulevard.
Corey Cullaton, 15, left, shakes Mayor Howard Wiggs’ hand Saturday at the “Recycled Ride for a Veteran” event. Cullaton had two cars donated, restored and given to veterans. Kaitlyn Pearson/The Ledger
“If I could do back flips, I would,” said Washington, 63, of Winter Haven one of the recipients.
Washington served in the Army for 10 years, and Mann served in the Army for 8½ years. Both women said they never lost faith that God would provide for them. Thanks to 15-year-old Corey Cullaton’s dedication to the community, both veterans’ prayers have been answered.
“It’s more than just a car,” Mann, 47, of Bartow, said. “It’s evidence that He reigns.”
Cullaton, a member of Boy Scout Troop 106, had the idea to do Recycled Ride for a Veteran for his Eagle Scout service project and started working on it in June.
The National Auto Body Council does Recycled Rides for those in need, but Cullaton said, this is the first time it’s ever been done as an Eagle Scout project.
During Saturday’s ceremony, Cullaton said he wanted to give veterans the opportunity to get reliable transportation.
“What we need in this town is a lot more men like Corey Cullaton,” said Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs, who was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s event. “You fully represent those who love Lakeland.”
Two cars were donated: a 2010 Mazda 3 from ARC Towing Service and a 2009 Toyota Camry from Allstate Insurance, which donates about five cars a year to different causes. Autobody Resurrection Carstar donated labor to repair both vehicles.
Dealerships and auto parts stores from around the community also donated parts to fix the glass, replace panels and paint the vehicles.
But resurrecting the vehicles was only half of Cullaton’s challenge — he had to find veterans to present them to.
Clark’s House, a not-for-profit organization that helps veterans obtain or retain housing, agreed to help when Cullaton presented the project at a Polk County Veterans Council meeting.
John Quirk, program support for Clark’s House, said they did the research to find eligible veterans.
Quirk said they did background checks to find people who needed a car, could afford the costs associated and had a good driving record. They also raised money to help pay for the tags and titles of the vehicles.
Thanks to Cullaton, Quirk said, Clark’s House may consider continuing the Recycled Ride project for more veterans in the future.
Washington plans to use her Toyota to help other seniors to get to appointments and volunteer more at her church.