Welcome to the Archetype Learning Solutions Strong Leaders, Strong Business, Strong Communities series. This series of blogs highlights community businesses demonstrating leadership through their actions. The Archetype Learning Solutions definition of leadership is “an influence-based relationship that is active, non-coercive, and reciprocal.” Its clear that Kevin and Debbie House of Center Collision have been very influential and active in their community program: Wheels to Prosper.
As I talked with Kevin about Wheels to Prosper, it’s very clear that community is a significant part of who he is. As I looked back at my notes, Kevin mentioned community at least 14 times in just one hour! One more way that Kevin supports the community is through a partnership with Brown & Haley. Brown & Haley produces one of Tacoma’s oldest and iconic candy: Almond Roca. Every customer receives a package of Almond Roca, a token of Kevin's appreciation for your business.
There is so much more to say about Kevin’s leadership, which extends to his passion for ensuring that your vehicles are repaired correctly, confirming that he truly is Keeping You on the Road!
Join in to learn more this incredible dedication to community, as I interview Kevin House of Center Collision…
Wheels to Prosper
· Center Collision Auto Body & Collision Repair: keeping you on the road!
· 1111 Center Street, Tacoma WA
For Kevin and Debbie House, Center Collision was much than repairing dented cars. This was a labor of love for building and sustaining a strong family: their own family. All the kids started by literally pushing brooms, starting with the tasks associated with running an organization rather than getting a prime-role, it was about life lessons and working their way up through an understanding of the operations. All of the kids got something out of the experience like good ethics and work habits or an understanding of what it really takes to operate a business.
“It was an opportunity to teach our kids how to work hard and be involved.”
Over time, Kevin realized that there was more to do within and for the community at large. For the past six years, Center Collision has hosted an annual event, “Wheels to Prosper” providing a car for someone in need within the community.
The first event was only about 30 people, but over the years it has gained legitimacy and now so many others are willing to jump in and help. That help is more than just legitimacy, however, it’s about others being willing to see the benefit of just giving, its about giving to the community. Lots of meetings, conversations, and learning from others has helped the program continue to grow and develop into so much more. At this year’s event, June 2023, there were about 110 people! A clear testament to the power of community-engagement through leadership.
Giving back to the community:
There are quite a few problems within our community, and of course these needs extend into other communities. I am not confident, said Kevin, that even a strong tax base can fix those problems, and there is nothing wrong with a capable business making a big difference. It may not be a huge dent, but it is helping to make the community a better place, one car at a time.
I really wanted to focus on one person, rather than a bunch of people, so that one person really feels special. It’s a life changing experience for the nominee and winner. This is the reason why Wheels to Prosper remains about one person making a difference.
“Most nominees and winners are facing a variety of obstacles, yet still make a point of contributing to the community.”
Aside from the winner, who receives a car, which has been cleaned, straightened, painted, and made mechanically sound – all donated, many of the community sponsors also contribute. For example, the winner also receives gas cards and six (6) months of paid auto insurance – all donated from other community members or businesses. Other donations include door prizes, entertainment, and food; it really has become a true community event. This year even Rhubarb of the Tacoma Rainier’s was present!
What prompted you to take on this program as part of your organization?
I wanted to be someone who made a difference. At some point all of us can make a difference, everybody is capable but they don’t always line up to do it. I had heard of others doing this in California, Florida, and Arkansas, and thought “somebody in Tacoma should do this,” then realized, “I’m somebody”!
“its really moving to see others witnessing the impacts of doing this type of work”
Center Collision is all about community. Its part of who I am and it’s a part of our organizational values.
This is a life-changing experience for the winners. This year’s recipient had been without a car for quite some time. This meant taking the bus or walking to work and conducting her volunteer work. Receiving a car means that she no longer has to wait for the bus, or walk, which will give her back so much time and flexibility. In addition, her own adult-kids will now be able to learn to drive!
I had the resources to do this, I also had the ability, and so why not! No one told me that I can’t. I sometimes feel that too many are waiting for something or somebody to push them in that direction. It’s really shown me that anyone who has a desire can make a difference. Establish your own criteria, don’t wait for someone else to define it for you. Its even better when it’s a belief that is truly part of your own values.
What is required for participants to be part of the program/project?
There is a nomination process and decision-making board (including the previous winner) who assesses all the applicants. The nominees must be able to demonstrate that they too are a contributing part of the community. Receiving a car will help not only them but help them continue to give back: it really is all about the community. A lot of it comes out in the story that’s told through the nomination process: they care, they help others, they want to contribute to the success of others. Providing them with a car means that they are rewarded for their contributions overall and can continue to do even more!
Most of the nominees over the past six years are working at least two jobs while continuing to support others i.e., feeding the homeless or making other significant contributions. It comes down to who can be more efficient in continuing to give to the community through a car.
There really are two main criteria:
1. Their values must demonstrate that they care about the community
2. They need a car and are in a position to have a car (licensed, insured, etc.).
Winners are informed that they are a finalist, most do not even know they’ve been nominated, and become the center of the event in keeping with our idea of ensuring the focus remains on that one person.
For other leaders considering embarking on a project or program that gives back to the community, what advice would you give them?
It takes some guts. It takes some willingness. It takes time and money, but stop thinking about it and start doing it”! Time is really the consuming part. It’s also about stepping out of your comfort zone. It would be much easier to write a check, but if you want to make a difference in the community, you need to step into the discomfort. I would actually be OK with somebody else doing this, but its something that I feel that I need to do, and will continue to do it.
Thank you for being part of the conversation with Kevin. And thank Kevin and Debbie House for making a difference through your actions – demonstrating that leadership is not about a title, its about what we do! Together, we can make a difference through our collective actions. Leadership is not a position, its about how we interact with others, engage through positivity, and embrace compassion and empathy.
Spread the word! I am looking forward to bringing more great business owners who are demonstrating leadership and promoting stronger communities. If you’re interested in sharing your story or know of someone else who is doing great things in the community, please let us know. We’d love to share more stories, proving that leadership is an action, not a position or a title. #everybodyleads #re-envisionleading #wecandobetter!
Can't wait to bring you more inspiring interviews from great leaders. ~d