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Collision Repair’s Unsung Hero: How Does CREF Distribute In-Kind Donations to Vo-Tech Schools Around the U.S.?

Published in Autobody News

Each year, the Collision Repair Education Foundation receives millions of dollars’ worth of in-kind donations from generous industry companies and professionals eager to support the next generation of collision repair professionals. Donations include tools, equipment and even car parts, which are distributed to the collision repair programs in need at vo-tech schools around the country. With so many large-scale donations and a limited staff, distribution seems an impossible task for CREF to manage alone – and it is!
As the Foundation’s efforts to raise awareness of the challenges in collision repair education gained traction, the industry’s generosity caused CREF leaders to ask about schools offering warehouse management programs. The auto body instructor at the Forbes Road Career and Technology Center in Monroeville, Penn. quickly introduced the then-instructor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Forbes who “was willing to collaborate with anyone to provide live work for his students,” according to Darrell Davis who currently teaches the program at Forbes. “The relationship was established.”
“Once I began my employment at Forbes five years ago, Melissa from the Foundation reached out to me to continue working with their product, and we have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with more and more product every year,” Davis added.
So, what is the life of a product donation? It begins with YOU – the collision repair professional who graciously donates products (or funds) to the Foundation. Once donations are received, CREF ships them to Forbes. “Darrell and the Forbes program’s willingness to receive our large-scale product donations, inventory them, and then use those as a class project to distribute to collision schools around the country is a life saver for us (and the schools that receive the donations)!” said Brandon Eckenrode, director of development for the Foundation. “CREF cannot thank Forbes enough for all their help over the years.”
Once the donations arrive at Forbes, Davis uses them as inventory and distribution projects for his students. “When the donations arrive, the students will complete a physical count of each type of item received, then place those items on our shelving units throughout the warehouse, according to the shipment date and number within our warehouse management system,” he explained.
Distribution requires different steps, depending on the product being shipped. Davis provided an example of the steps required for processing safety glasses: “We use the master list CREF gives us with individual orders and quantities. Using the master list, the students will pack each individual box based on the quantity needed, mark the order number on the box, and pass it off to our shipping area. Once the package is in our shipping area, the students match the order number on the box with the order number on the master list and begin the shipping label process using the mailing information on the master list. After labeling, the students will enter the tracking and package information into our inventory tracking software and move the completed packages over to our delivery pick up area to be picked up by the third-party carrier.”
The collaboration is mutually beneficial for CREF and Forbes. “Having the opportunity to work with CREF has allowed the students at Forbes to gain real life work experience by enabling us to mirror the same jobs and responsibilities they will encounter in our industry,” Davis noted. “Students can take the experience and skills from working with these products and show employers that they have worked in a real functioning warehouse, completing many of the steps in the logistics and supply chain field. CREF is continually kind enough to allow us to manage a wider range of inventory for them, which has provided us with the ability to expand our program in terms of class size, warehouse size and layout, and the use of various technologies, such as warehouse management systems, as well as inventory and package tracking software.”
In addition to enhancing the variety of the Forbes students’ training, this partnership provides Davis’ students with the added motivation of knowing their work positively affects other students. “I feel it has been an amazing opportunity to be able to provide this service that has benefited so many students and schools across the country. The students here at Forbes take great pride working with CREF and getting these products out to the schools and students that need them.”
Davis shared, “It is a rewarding experience to see our students being so actively engaged, invested and eager to get the products to where they can help another student or school. They really enjoy knowing that their work here at Forbes is having a real-life positive impact.”
“Although Darrell’s program is not connected to the industry, their efforts are instrumental in enabling us to receive these donations and get them distributed to the schools that desperately need them,” Eckenrode stated.
Since beginning his employment at Forbes and his relationship with CREF, Davis has been amazed by “the volume and variety of products CREF has been able to donate to all the various schools and collision programs throughout the country. We have had the opportunity to work with dozens of different products from safety glasses, gloves and tools, just to name a few, that CREF was then able to get into the hands of collision students.”
“The staff over at CREF is extremely dedicated to the service they provide; their ability to provide such a large number of schools and programs with a great variety of products has always been very impressive. Just in the few years I have worked with their product, I have seen so much positive growth with the CREF products, which shows they are getting these products to where they will benefit the most students and programs,” Davis continued.
“It’s a great pleasure to be able to work with the CREF, and we are grateful for the opportunity to manage the Foundation’s donations. It truly provides our students with wonderful experience and training to ensure their success after graduation.”
For more information about the Forbes Road Career and Technology Center, visit
Industry members interested in supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, Director of Development, at 312-231-0258 or [email protected].
The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at:
If you would like more information about this topic, please call 888-722-3787 or email [email protected].

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