As vice president of operations for Gerber Collision & Glass in Washington, Vince Claudio calls the Woodinville shop his home base. Under his leadership, the national company’s collision repair business has expanded from just five shops in 2007 to 17 shops today throughout the state.
“My business is not a business people want to willingly come to. It’s a bad day if you have to visit a collision shop,” Claudio said. “What we want to do, instead of just promoting our business, is to try to avoid collisions or avoid people getting hurt.”
He is approached often to sponsor various events and school programs, but he feels the company needs to do more than just pay to have a sign hung on a fence at local sports fields or a regular ad purchased in a school event program. Whenever possible, Claudio has some form of traffic safety public awareness message incorporated into the sponsorship, like buckling up for safety or alcohol awareness messages during prom season.
It’s up to each regional group of operations staff how they want the Gerber shops they manage to interact with the local community. “I think we have an obligation to be a part of the community, not to just be a business that’s in the community,” Claudio explained about his own philosophy used at the shops in Washington.
Claudio’s late wife, Claudia Claudio, was a great role model to him for giving back to the local community. Despite battling breast cancer for nine years before finally succumbing to the disease in May 2009, she was an active volunteer in their children’s schools from Canyon Creek Elementary to Skyview Junior High, even helping prepare for the spring musical at Bothell High School as she fought the last stages of cancer.
She also became an active participant in the Komen 3-Day Walk. To this day, the Claudio family still contributes to this event, volunteering to hand out food to participants at a refueling station.
After his wife died, Claudio realized he needed to fill her role as an active contributor to the school community, so he volunteered to serve on the BHS Theatre Arts Booster Club for three years while his children participated in the program.
Claudio has encouraged all 17 shops and their employees to be involved, starting with having all shop managers join their local Chamber of Commerce.
They collaborate with the Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Renton Technical College sponsoring apprentices in their shops. And, Woodinville shop manager Kerry Triboulet volunteers time with the students at LWIT, mentoring them with auto body and painting skills, while Claudio serves on the LWIT advisory board for their auto tech program.
Nationally, Gerber participates in Recycle Rides, where vehicles that have been damaged beyond replacement value are donated by one of the insurance companies, and then Gerber’s employees volunteer their time to repair the vehicles using donated parts by suppliers, donating the repaired vehicles to a charitable organization.
“We did one for a local support group for breast cancer patients. One cancer patient couldn’t work, so her car got repossessed. She didn’t have a way to get to her cancer treatments, so we got a car to her,” Claudio said.
Gerber has become an annual sponsor of financial scholarships for youth to attend the Bothell Youth Tennis Association’s summer tennis camps. “I love bringing kids who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to participate in that to do it,” Claudio said.
Every holiday season Gerber also holds a book and toy collection drive for Childhaven, a nonprofit benefitting children who’ve been abused. All 17 shops participated in the drive.
“I would never think the collision business is something that anybody would think we’re adding value to society, but if you can fix a car or give someone something that they really need that they wouldn’t otherwise get, it’s a cool feeling,” Claudio said.