Washburn Tech's latest Recycled Ride staying in the Washburn Family

A picture of Ginger and Anthony sits on an easle next to the carKANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On arguably the biggest stage for auto collision repair students across the country, Washburn Tech and the National Auto Body Council unveiled the ninth Recycled Ride.

A special auto collision repair industry breakfast was held Monday, on the opening day of the National SkillsUSA Convention at Bartle Hall. The event shined a light on the $35 million per year "invisible industry" of auto repair and culminated with the presentation of the ninth Recycled Ride repaired by students and industry partners at Washburn Tech.

The car, a jet black 2010 Ford Focus with fewer than 29,000 miles that sustained motor failure after two accidents with improper repairs, will be on display this week at SkillsUSA. Competition, featuring several Washburn Tech students, begins Wednesday.

Next week it will become Ginger Webber's new car. Webber, who has worked at Mabee Library for 14 years, currently drives a 1985 Chevy Impala. She was nominated for the Recycled Rides program by longtime friend Lori Rognlie, who also works at Mabee Library. Ronglie nominated Webber because Webber's unreliable car was an added hardship when her son, Anthony, suffered a brainstem stroke last October.

"Ginger was his eyes and ears," said Rognlie, who accepted the car on Webber's behalf. Because of Webber's car's unreliability, "she relies on a lot of other people for rides."

The day Anthony passed away in May, Webber's car didn't start.

"It's really important that she has a reliable car," Rognlie said. "Thank you so much for this program and for letting Ginger have this car."

Eric Showalter, lead auto collision repair instructor at Washburn Tech, helped Tech become one of the first schools in the country to offer the Recycled Rides program three years ago.

"The end result is we take a car that's salvage and put it back on the road as a fully functional, fully reliable automobile that will change someone's life," Showalter said.

Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the National Auto Body Council, called Showalter "an inspiration" within the industry.

The Recycled Rides program has expanded nationally and is hoping to reach 300 cars this year. And 300 lives transformed.

"We are able to take people out of the unfortunate situation of having no transportation." Sulkala said. "Transportation is the third leg of that stool of self sufficiency," along with a home and employment. 

All of the repaired cars are donated. Washburn Tech also has received two Good Neighbor grants from State Farm Insurance that has helped to pay for parts that can't be donated.

Bill Stage, senior director of education development segment with I-CAR, told those gathers at the presentation Monday morning:  "You can't be part of this and not be proud."

Three men stand in front of the open hood of the black 2010 Ford Focus

From left to right: Eric Showalter, instructor; David Marstall and Tristan Hughes, auto collision repair students.