By Kathy Feist
Mike Lane sits in his stark office in south Kansas City, a corner of which is decorated by pictures of Lane posing with celebrities, awards from Fox 4 and the American Business Women’s Association Hall of Fame, and letters gushing with thanks for his generosity.
Lane points out his favorite letter, one from a young woman who wanted to be a rodeo clown. Her dreams were realized, but a tragic event with a bull left her paralyzed from the waist down. Lane was able to donate a customized vehicle to her, allowing her to follow new adventures and dreams. “She now competes in wheelchair basketball in the worldwide Special Olympics,” he proudly says.
Lane operates Auto Donation Center located at 11214 Hickman Mills Dr. in Kansas City. Since 2002, the center has been accepting vehicle donations on behalf of the American Children’s Society, a nonprofit formed in New Jersey. Their mission was to assist families with medical, household and funeral costs of ill children and victims of disasters as well as “supply free and low cost vehicles to the general public in need of inexpensive transportation.” Recently the nonprofit changed operation and is now called A Warriors Mission, based out of Florida.
Lane is quick to point out that regardless of where the nonprofit is located, “What we get in Kansas City stays in Kansas City.”
For years, Kansas Citians have responded to the Auto Donation Center’s ads which have run daily in the Kansas City Star and on other media. By calling the center’s number or going online, a person can donate any vehicle in any shape–even without a title– to A Warrior’s Mission. At the time of pick up, the Auto Center provides a tax deduction certificate based on the vehicle’s fair market value as well as other necessary paperwork.
The condition of the vehicle determines whether it will be donated to an individual, sold online for cash, fixed or salvaged. “If we don’t have confidence in the car, we will not put money into fixing it,” explains Lane. For vehicles that are beyond saving, the Auto Center keeps parts for their own purposes before sending them to a salvage yard. It saves them money when fixing similar vehicles.
Those receiving a donated vehicle from A Warrior’s Mission are vetted with the help of case managers. Recipients have come from homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, victims of disasters such as tornadoes and fires, and many other dire situations.
As for helping individuals financially, it is hard to tell where generosity from A Warrior’s Mission ends and Lane’s own financial contribution kicks in.
Lane, who helped start a self-esteem boosting program for middle school girls and boys at Martin City K-8 School, once delivered a Christmas gift and tree to a family that won them as a prize. “The mother lived in Section 8 housing with two young kids and no husband. When we got there we discovered she had no heat. We found a heating and AC company that donated their time and services. Then we found they had no food. So we found them some food. When we went to deliver the food, guess what? No refrigerator!” he says.
While it’s easy for him to get money from A Warrior’s Mission, he admits it’s hard for him to not get involved personally. “How can you not help someone?” he says, recalling the time he gave an upset grocery store clerk a hundred dollar bill after overhearing her discussing her struggles.
“There are people out there who need help. And if you are in the position to help, then you are obligated,” he says. “During those times I have to ask myself, ‘Can I live without $100, maybe not go out for dinner or something?’ In the end, I believe it comes back to you. I really believe that.”