Earlier this year, a friend of mine called to say that I should meet a fellow Bowdoin graduate who runs a nonprofit in West Concord. In anticipation of our lunch at Twin Seafoods, I reviewed the typical questions that would be posed and answered in such a meeting: graduating class? fraternity house? major? sports?
Dan Holin was older than most people in his class since he served in the Army after high school. I observed that he was lucky to have taken the time to grow up before attending college, but his step wasn’t taken by choice. Dan grew up in Israel and his service was part of each citizen’s responsibility to the country!
Holin has been a resident of West Concord for over 20 years. During that time, he has left his imprint on a number of organizations through his work in the non-profit field.
In an early application of his talents, Holin was the founding executive director of the Jericho Road Project, an organization with close ties to the First Parish Church of Concord. Its mission was to match the professional talents of volunteers with the needs of community-based nonprofit organizations in cities like Lowell and Lawrence to promote community development, strengthen social services and enrich the lives of volunteers.
He also founded “Monsters in the Basement”, an “…inclusive, enthusiastic, and informal road cycling club based in West Concord…” (according to its website) which appears to organize rides based on cycling speed. (I divided my time this morning by my miles and determined that I am a spectator! Not to mention that while I was chugging along on Main Street three cyclists went whipping by me and startled me from my reverie.)
Holin’s current organization, Second Chance Cars (SCC), is also located in West Concord. It provides automobiles to people to help them get, keep or grow a job. These people are all low-income and are primarily veterans, single parents and “returning citizens” (from incarceration).
Cars are donated to SCC, refurbished and then awarded. SCC accepts all car donations. Most cars are sent to one of nine area partner vocational high schools, including Minuteman High School, where their automotive and auto body departments repair any issues and make the cars look great. Higher-end donated cars with higher maintenance costs and gas use are sold to pay for the repair of the cars SCC awards. (Anecdotally, donors are entitled to a tax deduction equal to the car’s retail value and are also invited to attend the ceremony in which their car is awarded.)
Holin works with 15 social service organizations, including three VAs, which identify worthy recipients for each rehabilitated car. Once a match for a car is determined, an award ceremony is held.
I attended an award ceremony at Minuteman High School in which a homeless woman of 29 with an extremely cute and shy son in tow received a Toyota Avalon. I met Kenai outside the school with her son and representatives of JVS Boston, the partner social service organizations that recommended Kenai to SCC. Dan arrived and led a small entourage back into the automotive department where faculty and students had gathered around a clad car. After some speechifying, the car was revealed and Kenai got into her car and drove off.
Kenai is a mother of three children, two of whom now live in Atlanta with their father. Circumstances led her to Metrowest. She found mentorship through the Boston Career Center and a sponsor through JVS. At the time of this writing, Kenai has found great housing and is interning as a medical assistant – which a car made possible. A video of the ceremony is online at https://youtu.be/vaqz2CytSt0.
To date, over 70 cars have been awarded to worthy recipients. I received an email last week from Dan identifying five car awards to take place in June alone!
If you have a spare car in your driveway or are tired of your current car, consider donating it to Second Chance Cars. Their website is www.secondchancecars.org. Or email Dan at email@example.com.