Saturday October 27, 2012

LENOX -- To say the vehicles used by the staff at Gould Farm have seen better days is an understatement. One of the trucks owned by the therapeutic rehabilitation community in Monterey starts with a button off an old clothes dryer.

But with the help of a contest run by the Toyota Motor Co., and local auto dealer George Haddad, those used and worn-out vehicles have gained a brand-new companion.

Toyota and Haddad presented Gould Farm with a red 2013 Toyota Sienna van on Friday after the center was chosen as one of the 100 winners of Toyota's "100 Cars for Good Program."

Through this national philanthropic initiative, Toyota aw ards a vehicle each day to one nonprofit in the country for 100 consecutive days. The winners are selected each day through public voting on Facebook. Haddad, one of two Toyota dealerships in the Berkshires, donated the vehicle because it is located the closest to Gould Farm.

Maria Rundel, Gould Farm's director of development, said the nonprofit intends to use the new van to bring people to classes and medical appointments. The oldest residential therapeutic community in the nation dedicated to helping adults living with mental illness, Gould Farm will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.

"We're going to stop embarrassing ourselves when we go out in public," Rundel said.

This is the first time that Haddad Toyota has participated in the contest, which its parent company started in 2011. Haddad said he was pleased to be able to donate a vehicle that retailed for $27,644 to the nonprofit.

"I don't know any other way to put it except to say that it's great," Haddad said. "I believe in helping out and being community-minded."

Gould Farm also received a big assist from Rundel's parents, retired educators Martyn and Margaret McMahon of Richmond, who agreed to insure the vehicle.

"We could have paid for it," Rundel said. "But it would've really hurt. Somebody would not be receiving financial aid."

According to Rundel, Gould Farm learned about the contest through a board member, and sent its application, which included a two-minute video, to Toyota in April. The auto company received 4,200 applications from nonprofits across the country, said Toyota's District Sales Manager Chris Houck. The company then narrowed the list down to 500 finalists. The 100 winners were chosen from that pool of 500.

Voters on Facebook were given five nonprofits to vote for during each day of the competition. The top vote-getter each day was declared the winner. The four runners-up each received a $1,000 cash grant from Toyota.

The voting for Gould Farm took place on July 4. Rundel said Berkshire Bank allowed Gould Farm representatives to operate the popcorn wagon in Park Square during Pittsfield's Independence Day Parade, and staff members did their best to get the word out. She said Gould Farm received votes from all over the country, including one from a man in California who owns a second home in Monterey.

"We reached so many people that we had lost touch with over the years," Rundel said.

Gould Farm has entered a second contest in which it is trying to win $5,000 worth of gasoline. Voting takes place at FuelingGood.com.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @TonyDobrow