Lions Give Away Three Cars; Help War Refugees

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.

September 21, 2023

The Morro Bay Lions Foundation recently gave away three used cars to some folks in need of reliable transportation. Among them are two women and a refugee family from Ukraine.

Some deserving people — including a refugee family from Ukraine — benefitted from a bit of old-fashioned horse-trading by the Morro Bay Lions Foundation and the club’s free car giveaway program.

Begun in 2014, Lion Bill Todd said they have now given away 43 cars to deserving people in need of transportation.

Carol Perez of San Luis Obispo was given a 2002 Toyota Camry by the Lions Foundation.

He smiles ear-to-ear as he explains that a 1991 RV in near new condition was donated to the Lion’s program. It was recently auctioned off raising $9,000, he said. They were also given a 2009 Toyota Sierra mini van, which Todd said they sold to raise $5,300 more for the program. 

“That’s how we were able to buy these three cars,” Todd said, referring to the trio of shiny vehicles parked in the driveway of Todd’s Garage on Quintana Road. “And money was also put into the ‘Feed the Hungry’ program.” 

That’s a nickname the Lions have for the weekly, Monday Night Free Community Dinners the club organizes along with other local organizations and volunteers (held every Monday at the Vet’s Hall).

The Motornyi Family — Victoria, Alex and little Anna — refugees from Ukraine, pose with SLO4Home President, Vance Rodgers and the 2006 Honda Civic they got from the Lions Foundation.

Todd said they bought and were now giving away a 2002 Toyota Camry, a 2006 Honda Civic, and a 1991 Buick Park Avenue luxury sedan, which Todd laughingly called “a boat.”

All of the cars were gone through mechanically by Bill Todd and his son Mike Todd, including smog checks before being given away. 

Recipients pledge to register and insure the cars and keep up the maintenance on them. 

Morro Bay resident, Lisa Abbattista, received the keys to a beautiful, 1991 Buick Park Avenue by the Lions Foundation.

This time they worked with some other organizations, Todd explained, SLO4Homes, CAP-SLO and Hopes Village, to select the recipients. 

Carol Perez of San Luis Obispo was given the Camry. She was nominated by her friend Vicki Jorgensen of Hope’s Village, she explained. The Camry will make her life so much easier. 

Perez said her old car “died” and she’s been scrambling to find transportation for quite some time now. She rides the bus and gets help from friends but the bus schedule isn’t always workable. 

For instance, on Labor Day she was supposed to work but the buses didn’t run that day, so she missed a whole day of work.

Perez said Jorgensen had nominated her in August and just a month later, “ here we are. I was lucky. I am so grateful to everyone for this.”

The Civic went to a Ukrainian Family that fled the war with Russia and is being assisted with finding work, housing, a job (and now a car) by SLO4Home. 

The group’s president, Vance Rodgers, nominated the Motornyi Family — father Alex, mom Victoria and their young daughter, Anna.

Rodgers said the organization is helping seven refugee families right now — from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine. “All of their lives were threatened,” he said.

Her momma and papa got a car from the Lions Foundation but little Anna Motornyi got a stuffed Lion, which while she won’t be able to drive, will no doubt still get a lot of mileage from.

The Motornyis were very grateful at everything people have done for them since they arrived here. “Our family,” Alex said to the assembled Lions and other well-wishers, “really appreciates everything and are incredibly grateful for everything.” To find out more about SLO4Home, see the website at:

The Buick boat was given to Lisa Abbattista, a Morro Bay resident who works at the Prado Road Homeless Center for CAP-SLO, which nominated her for the program. 

She moved to Morro Bay and didn’t have a car, she said, which was fine until she got the job at the shelter, which she loves and wants to continue with.

“You need a car,” she said, “with my job.” She’ll now be able to do much more to help the folks at Prado, like giving rides, picking up donations, hauling things around (the Buick is a 4-door) and more. 

She was almost at a loss for words. “This is like… you have no idea what this car will do for me. I’m going to be able to do so much more.”

Though it’s old, and has nearly 200,000 miles on it, the Buick is immaculate and quite luxurious and the Todd boys made sure it’s running great. 

It has big comfortable, leather seats but just a regular old, AM/FM radio. According to one Lion, who took it for a washing, it runs great and is very quite. It was top-of-the-line in its day.

If readers or someone they know is in need of reliable transportation, they might apply for the program through the Community Resource Connections, a Morro Bay non-profit agency with an office at 695 Harbor St. (call 805-225-1991). The Community Resource Connections assists people in Morro Bay to connect with available resources. They’ve been partnering with Bill and Mike Todd on the car give away program since the start, with the Lions Foundation soon joining them. See the website at:

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