Big Switcheroo with Latest Free Car Giveaway

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 15, 2022

From left, Bill Todd, Kathleen Tyndal and Mike Todd celebrate Tyndal’s being the 37th recipient in the Lions Club’s quarterly car giveaway, a 2000 Toyota Camry.

The Morro Bay Lions Club gave away its 37th free car on June 18, pulling the ol’ switcheroo on their unsuspecting but delighted recipient.

Bill Todd of Todd’s Garage and a Lions’ board member, said he was a bit embarrassed at their original car to give away — a 1993 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon, which has a bit of body damage on the passenger side and needs a water pump.

But the recent death of a local fellow, Robert Hyde, presented an opportunity to upgrade their gift.

The Hyde Family donated his 2000 Toyota Camry LE, a white, 4-door sedan. “It was perfect timing,” said Todd.

With the City’s Water Recycling Facility (WRF) trenching contractor again tearing up Quintana Road in front of the garage — on a Saturday — gift car recipient, Kathleen “Katie” Tyndal was nonetheless very grateful for any car.

Katie, who works at Todd’s Garage while also doing an externship to become a medical assistant, said she was living in the Central Valley and had just gotten a Honda Civic. “I had it 2 days,” she said, “before someone stole the whole exhaust; they were after the catalytic converter.”

Bill Todd is all smiles as he hands over the keys to a 2000 Toyota Camry that the Lions Club gifted Kathleen Tyndal as part of its free car giveaway program. Tyndall was the 37th person so far to be gifted a car.

Replacing it was problematic. “It made the difference,” she said, “between affording and not affording a car. I sold it for next to nothing.”

She’s since moved to the coast and has been carless, borrowing a Prius owned by Bill Todd to ease the burden she was having on a couple of friends that were graciously giving her rides everywhere. But that too had a rather unhappy ending.

Two weeks ago, Tyndal explained, she was coming home at night from Los Osos on South Bay Boulevard when she hit a deer and wrecked Todd’s Prius. She was unhurt physically by the deer strike, but emotionally, she was a wreck.

“I’d never hit a large animal before,” she explained. “It was very upsetting. I have this horrible image in my mind of the deer being launched by the collision. It was very sad.” She added that the poor deer died instantly; the Prius survived, barely.

“What was even worse,” she said, “was I had to tell Bill.”

She said she drove it home and was again without wheels. The Lions Club had already awarded her a car and was planning to give it to her, along with another vehicle, at the recent Morro Bay Car Show. Walter Ramage did receive that other vehicle.

But Tyndal was unable to attend so they postponed her giveaway. That’s when the swap for the old station wagon happened.

On the 18th, with the station wagon sitting in the driveway, Mike Todd, Bill’s son and cohort in the garage, drove the Camry around the block and into the garage’s front drive, where Tyndal was let in on the switcheroo.

“I’d be so happy either way,” she said as she sat in the front seat of her car for the first time.

The Lions Car Giveaway is done in conjunction with the Morro Bay Community Resource Connections, a non-profit group operating out of the Chamber of Commerce office at 695 Harbor St. 

The Resource Connections does the intake of applications for the program and a committee judges them on their merits, with extra points going for things like someone who regularly volunteers in the community.

But otherwise, one simply has to have a real need for transportation. The Lions give away a car every 3 months.

The cars come to them in a variety of ways — some are donated after the death of a loved one, when someone gets too old to drive, or instead of trading it in. The Lions Club gives full Blue Book value to the donors for tax purposes.

The Todds — Bill and Mike — go through the vehicles, fixing whatever is wrong with them and making sure they pass smog check (Todd’s Garage is a smog check station). They sometimes also have the cars detailed by local detail shop, Silva’s. 

A recipient has to have the means to keep the registration up and to get insurance too.

The Lions accept cash donations for the program, which they use to buy parts, tires, and even whole cars, if they come across a good one for sale.

See: www.communityresourceconnections.net/home/car-give-aways for information on the program.

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