By Alex Perdikis
You probably think of your car as a way to get around and do what you have to do. You use it to get groceries, go to work, chauffeur the children and take an occasional road trip now and then.
But, did you know you can use your car to help people and nonprofit organizations in your community? In fact, it doesn’t matter if you only have a couple of hours a week or a lot of time on your hands, you can find a way to use your driving skills and car to help others.
1. Driving seniors. A lot of people who were self-sufficient for years find themselves unable to drive as they age. Poorer eyesight, loss of coordination, slower reflexes and other health issues often reduce a senior’s ability to drive safely. But, seniors still need to get to doctor’s appointment, pick up medications and buy groceries.
2. Running errands for those in need. Picking up medications, doing the grocery shopping and mailing packages at the post office is difficult for many seniors and disabled persons. You can help by doing the running around for them.
3. Assist animal rescue organizations with transport. Pet rescue organizations often find themselves in need of help to transport pets from one location to another.
“Sometimes the transport involves long-distances, typically transporting cats and dogs from an overcrowded shelter in one location to another with more room many miles away.” — Alex Perdikis
Usually, volunteer drivers take one leg of the journey and transfer pets to another volunteer until the pets reach journey’s end.
Shelters often need shorter transportation help as well, such as transporting a pet to a veterinarian and back.
4. Donate your car to charity. Perhaps you bought a new car and don’t need the old one, or you inherited a relative’s car you don’t really need. Of course, donating is not exactly a selfless act because you receive a tax benefit from the donation. And, there are other red flags to consider when it comes to donating your car to a charitable organization.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Done the right way, a car donation is a win-win. Before you donate your car, however, follow these steps to make sure you maximize your benefits to the charity and cover yourself in the process.
- Check that the charity is an accepted IRS qualified nonprofit. Your donation is not tax-deductible if it isn’t.
- Research the charity’s efficiency rank with Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Make sure the bulk of donations go to the cause and not into administrative costs.
- Deliver the car to the charity yourself without using a third party.
- Keep your receipt.
- Make sure you file the correct forms with the IRS when you file your taxes.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to volunteering, check with local organizations to see how you can help. Local senior centers and county offices may already have programs set up you can become a part of. Even if you have just a couple of hours on the weekend, you can use your car to help others right in your own community.
Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.