Donating to CARS : A Love INC Church Partnership

Marie was a single mom with a job that required her to drive throughout Lake County to see clients and, on occasion, to the home office in Chicago. But then, her car broke down, and she couldn’t afford to have it repaired.

Public transportation wasn’t an option. How could she possibly get to all her clients’ homes throughout the county? She searched for a reliable used car but couldn’t find one she could afford. Between rent, food and care for her son, her budget was stretched–even while working two jobs. 

“I survived a month without a car through the kindness of friends and Uber,” Marie says. But Uber trips could run $90 each way to Chicago, an expense she couldn’t maintain. “If it weren’t for the CARS Ministry of Christ Church, I would have lost my job and then my home,” she says.

Marie’s story is real (although her name was changed to protect her privacy) and way too common in Lake County, especially for single parents and seniors living on a fixed income. 

That’s why in 2013, Christ Church of Lake Forest launched a special ministry called Christ Church Auto Resource and Service (CARS). Its purpose is to meet the transportation needs of people who are unable to meet those needs themselves. As a partner of Love In the Name of Christ of Lake County (Love INC) since 2014, CARS has provided auto maintenance workshops and car donations to dozens of our neighbors in need. 

Car Donations Dried Up During the Pandemic 

Since its inception, CARS has matched about 500 cars with families and individuals. However, since the pandemic, car donations have slowed to a screeching halt. But the need hasn’t stopped; it’s increased according to Gary Jones, volunteer advisor for CARS. 

People are now holding on to their cars longer, so vehicle donations–drivable and undrivable–are down, he explains. Before the pandemic, CARS received an average of eight car donations per month. Today the donation average is only two per month–a 75% decrease. 

CARS currently has a waiting list of families desperately in need of transportation. 

CARS Accepts Working Cars & Wrecks 

CARS is unique in that it’s solely dependent on donations from individuals–people like you and me. “We take wrecked cars that are no longer drivable as well as cars that still run, but may not have the best paint job,” says Eddie Zeitler, a volunteer who took over management of CARS in January 2023. 

He says most donations to the CARS Ministry are considered “junk” or unfixable and that’s okay with them. “We’re able to sell the wrecks and buy better quality cars for people who need them to get to work, doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, and to take care of their kids.”

Zeitler donated his wife’s well-running economy car after she passed away a few years ago. “I wanted my wife’s car to make a positive difference in someone else’s life, because that’s the way she lived. I feel it’s part of her legacy.” 

Jones adds, “When you connect someone with a car who’s gone without, you get to see the result right away. The smiles, the joy, the sense of relief and independence, it’s all on their faces when you hand over the keys.” 

Every vehicle donated helps a neighbor in need of transportation in one of three ways: 

  1. Provides transportation for a family. All cars are inspected and serviced by Christ Church’s auto repair and service partners. Each car is matched with a family that will benefit from a reliable car. Donors receive a tax letter allowing them to claim the private party retail value, according to Kelly Blue Book (
  2. Raises funds as salvage. If the car doesn’t run and can’t be made road-worthy, it’s sold as salvage. Money raised is used to repair cars that can be fixed and become reliable transportation. Donors receive a letter confirming donation for tax purposes. The maximum write-off is $500 for a salvaged car.
  3. Raises money by retailing. If the car is not appropriate to give to a family (such as luxury vehicle that’s expensive to maintain), it will be sold at retail or sold as parts, providing income to help several families. Donors receive a letter or IRS form stating the value received for tax purposes. 


3 Benefits of Donating to CARS  

By donating your drivable or undrivable vehicle, you will:

1. Avoid the hassle of selling or disposing of the car yourself: You won’t need to place ads on social media, deal with phone calls or emails, or have to show the car to potential buyers and haggle over price. If the car is undrivable, you won’t have to pay towing fees. CARS will pick it up for free.

2. Get a significant tax write-off: Christ Church is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions, including vehicle donations, may be claimed as deductions on your federal tax return, if you itemize. Learn more by checking out the Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation or by consulting with your tax adviser.

3. Help a charity whose work you believe in: That may seem obvious (most of us make donations to charities whose work we support), but it’s true. CARS is a ministry operated by Christ Church, a partner of Love INC. Your donation supports our mission of mobilizing local churches to transform lives and communities In the Name of Christ.

Want To Learn More?

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Have a car to donate?

Go to, contact Eddie Zeitler at, or call 847-234-1001. A volunteer will call to arrange pick up, free of charge, within 24 hours. You will receive a receipt for your tax-deductible donation. And you will be part of helping your neighbors get the transportation they need to thrive in our community!