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Santa Presents Wheels to 2 Needy HCDE Head Start Families

Bates Collision Centers donates cars 25 and 26

Santa makes an early run and delivers wheels to two needy Head Start families. Bates Collision Centers gifts two cars Dec. 18 and 19 to two single mothers who are exhibiting responsible parenting practices through their Harris County Department of Education Head Start programs.

This year marks the 15th year the Bates and employees have gifted rehabbed and refurbished cars to needy families. This year’s donations are cars number 25 and 26.

 “As long as there are needs in the community, we want to be there to help out,” co-owner Lee Bates said. “We are already 15 years into this tradition, and we hope to continue for another 25 cars or more.”

The annual car giveaway is a team effort for Bates employees, who spend time rehabbing the cars and wrap the vehicles like presents with wide, white butcher paper topped with a giant red bow. The vehicles are filled with gifts for the family. Community partners donate necessary items like insurance, gas cards and car seats.

The vehicles allow the parents to become self sufficient, said  Venetia Peacock, Head Start director.

“It is a life-changing event, and it puts everyone into the holiday spirit,” Peacock said.

About a dozen hopeful families applied for the award this year from 14 HCDE Head Start centers in northeast Harris County. The Bates select the recipients based on multiple criteria, including a personal essay from the applicant. This year’s recipients are Belinda Martinez from Pugh Head Start Center and Debbie Jones from Compton Head Start Center.

About Belinda Martinez, 25th Bates Collision Center car recipient: 

Belinda Martinez is the single mother of Salma Martinez, 4, who is enrolled in Harris County Department of Education Head Start Pugh Center, Houston, Texas, 77020.

Martinez currently has no car and must depend on others for transportation. Often she and her daughter walk to get to their destinations.

“Being a single parent isn’t easy, but I try my best,” she said. “I take my daughter to school with help from my friends, and I take the bus to go to work.

Although Martinez only lives 15 minutes from her cashier’s job at a home improvement store, the route she takes adds about two hours to her schedule each day.

“Receiving this vehicle would be the biggest blessing anyone could give me,” she said. “It would help me better myself and help me be a more supportive parent.”

Debbie Jones, 26th Bates Collision Center car recipient:

Debbie Jones is a single parent of two children and one grandchild. She was nominated because of her dedication to her children. She is also commended for volunteering through her church and nonprofit organizations. In addition to her duties as parent and volunteer, she cares for her elderly mother who suffers from emphysema.

“Not being able to attend my son’s school and sport activities, church events or community events has me feeling like a failure at times as a parent,” she said.  “I had applied to a part-time job during the holidays but was unable to keep the job due to lack of transportation.”

Jones works at the Head Start Compton Center and is described as a hard worker who goes out of her way to make things happen for the good of those she serves.


About Bates Collision Centers:

Founded in 1990 by Lee and Leila Bates, Bates Collision Centers holds steadfast to its mission to be the collision repair center of “choice” in the Bay Area of Texas. Two locations in Channelview and Baytown provide services to the community.  For more information, go to


About Harris County Department of Education’s Head Start:

Harris County Department of Education Head Start Area I serves families residing in east and northeast Harris County, providing 14 area centers for over 1,100 children and their families. Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares children ages 3-5 for school. It also supports and promotes strong families through parent participation and training. Low-income families and families of children with special needs benefit from services. For more information, call (713) 672-9343,


Media Contact:

Amanda Arnold

Communications Specialist

(713) 696-8272


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