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CREF announces COVID-19 School Recovery Fund; CIF aid requests top 500

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The Collision Repair Education Foundation said 65 percent of the auto body trade schools it surveyed reported the COVID-19 coronavirus will affect their program budgets in the 2020-21 school year.

It has even dealt a blow to the current-year budget at 45 percent of the schools polled by CREF.

That will directly affect their ability to educate their collision students,” CREF warned in an email April 15. (Emphasis CREF’s.)

CREF said the budget issues would impact curriculum; purchases of consumables, tools, equipment, safety items; and capital equipment spending.

“Many states have already cancelled school for the entire school year and educators are struggling for resources to educate their students,” CREF Executive Director Clark Plucinski wrote in March.

The organization in April encouraged the industry to “save collision education” with donations to a new COVID-19 School Recovery Fund.

“This fund will identify schools that have been impacted by COVID-19 and bring them to the level needed to produce the best entry-level employees. It will also work to connect students at those schools with industry employment in their areas,” CREF wrote in the April email.

The Recovery Fund joins other COVID-19-related efforts CREF announced in March. 

Considering that unemployment stood at 12.4 percent the week ending April 18 and the government is trying to incentivize small businesses not to cut jobs, it’s probably not an easy time for vo-tech graduates to enter the workforce.

Plucinski in March said CREF was seeking to host virtual career fairs, for it had to postpone its live spring job events. It also announced a focus on its resume database.

The organization also set a goal of awarding more than $100,000 to students this spring.

“With many campuses and businesses closed, students are struggling to have an income to pay for education,” Plucinski wrote. “CREF is ramping up support for the scholarship program to help the students bridge the gap during these difficult times.”

CREF said it also hoped to help schools and students pursuing “e-learning.”

“Most schools did not have a detailed school plan in place for long-term e-learning so many schools are struggling to adapt,” Plucinski wrote. “CREF is helping with curriculum, online platforms, and other instructor needs to help deliver education to their students.”

He said CREF sought to compile a list of resources and host one or two webinars itself.

CREF announced another fund this month besides its COVID-19 effort. The organization has established the Ron Ray Memorial Fund in honor of its late executive director.

Ron Ray served as CREF executive director from 1997 to 2007 after time at Porsche and Honda.

“Ron was instrumental in making CREF the great organization it is today,” Plucinski said in a statement April 2. “Given his passion for collision education, Ron would be gratified to know that so many of the schools and students he cared about are being assisted in his memory. He will be missed by so many in the industry, and I was honored to call him a colleague and a friend.”

Ray followed his CREF tenure with work at I-CAR and as a Lincoln Tech-Nashville instructor.

CREF said the fund will “support the collision students and schools that Ron supported throughout his career.”

Gwen Ray, Ron’s wife, reflected on Ron’s achievements:

“Ron had a passion for what he did, whether it was working for OEM or teaching,” Ray’s wife, Gwen, said in a statement. “He wanted to make a difference; that is what was most important to him. Over the eight years he taught at Lincoln Tech, he had received several letters from students and that was his reward. He loved what he did-period.”

Tractable $25K reboots CIF giving

In other COVID-19 charity news, the Collision Industry Foundation announced Monday that a $25,000 Tractable donation helped replenish a relief fund depleted by industry demand.

“At Tractable, our mission is to accelerate accident and disaster recovery across the world, with AI. But recently, the world has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic.” Tractable CEO Alex Dalyac said in a statement. “As a company, we feel we have the duty to do something to help those in need within our industry. In the collision repair sector in which we operate, as people around the world stay at home and drive less, repairs have declined by as much as half. With fewer vehicles in need of repairs, the outlook for repairers – and for their livelihoods – is at risk. Automotive repair professionals and their families are being affected, experiencing medical and financial difficulties.”

CIF said it had to close its website to new applications after taking more than 500 requests for the COVID-19 fund it announced in late March.

The fund had been seeded with $100,000 from CIF, a $100,000 donation from CCC, and more than $7,000 from other donors. However, the industry’s need proved so great that the fund was nearly tapped out by mid-April. CIF ultimately had to cease taking new requests — until Tractable’s $25,000 permitted it to reopen the effort.

“We are grateful for the generous financial contribution that Tractable has made to the CIF COVID-19 assistance fund at this crucial time,” CIF President Michael Quinn (AirPro) said in a statement. “Many individuals are already directly benefitting from this donation.”

CIF, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, helps people with ties to the collision industry after disasters. It bought tools for repairers after Hurricane Katrina, funded a Christmas for families affected by the Camp Fire, and donated $10,000 to a shop owner whose son (a former shop employee) and daughter-in-law were slain in a mass shooting, leaving behind young children.

Quinn said more industry support would be needed to keep up with the COVID-19 relief demand.

Donate to the CIF COVID-19 fund here or email about corporate donations. Those in the collision ecosystem who need assistance should apply on CIF’s website here.

More information:

“CREF Ramping Up Support for Struggling Education System”

CREF, March 26, 2020

Donate to CREF COVID-19 Fund or Ron Ray Fund.

Donate to CIF COVID-19 Fund

Apply for CIF help


The Collision Repair Education Foundation has announced a COVID-19 School Recovery Fund. (Marc Dufresne/iStock)

The Tractable booth at NACE 2017 is shown. (John Huetter/Repairer Driven News)

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