This Veterans Day, more than 100 veterans and their families will be getting the keys to newly refurbished vehicles as part of The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies' annual Keys to Progress® program. The program was initiated by Progressive in 2013 and since then has donated more than 500 reconditioned vehicles to veterans and veteran families since. In 2016,  Progressive Insurance and the National Auto Body Council (NABC) chose Rydell Chevrolet and Rydell Collision Center as one of its partners to identify and repair a vehicle for this cause.  

When Progressive chose to help an Iowa veteran, it also offered an Iowa dealership, Rydell, the opportunity to participate in large part because of Brad Vaughn, who manages Rydell's collision center. Vaughn's son, Travis, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2007. Rydell rebuilt a totaled 2012 Chevrolet Captiva mid-size sport-utility vehicle for Brandon Hayden, a U.S. Army Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran of Davenport. Personal circumstances recently left him temporarily homeless and without a reliable automobile.

As a company, we see the need in our community to provide support to military men and women who may be facing tough circumstances in life - from difficult personal and family health needs, to excessive rent burdens, unemployment and even homelessness. One of Rydell's core values is the value of being good community citizens. We give willingly to and are actively involved in the support of our communities because they provide us our success.  Keys to Progress is a great way to put that into action, extending the principle to people who have given so much for their country. 

"We do a lot of work with Progressive, we've got a good relationship with them," Vaughn said. "What they did was get a total-loss car from their yard in Des Moines. And they picked it to suit the need of the veteran." Hayden, 33, has three school-age sons.

Vaughn said he wanted to be as good to Hayden as Rydell has been to him following his son's death. "This is one big family," Vaughn said. "When I lost Travis, I was off for maybe five weeks." The dealership made sure he was provided for financially. His coworkers also were respectful. The dealership also supports Brad's wife Kandie's annual "Shower of Gifts" initiative to raise donations of personal items to residents of the Iowa Veterans Home in Travis' memory.

Mike Decker, a Progressive claims manager, said Hayden was the first Iowa veteran selected as a "Keys to Progress" recipient and Rydell the first Iowa dealership selected to do the work. "Knowing Brad's situation, we thought it'd be something they'd be interested in," Decker said.

"This was a deal that Progressive brought to us because they knew of Brad's history with Trav, and our support of veterans and veteran services over the past decade," said Matt Halbur, general manager of Rydell in Waterloo. "It wasn't even something that we had to think about. It was something that we jumped right on. This whole deal fell right into our wheelhouse in terms of what we like to do, and a group of people we like to help."

"Very veteran friendly," Vaughn said. LKQ Corp.'s Nashville, Tenn. location and the AutoPlus auto parts store in Evansdale helped with the restoration project on Hayden's new vehicle. It also was checked by Rydell's service department.

Rydell representatives presented the vehicle to Hayden at Progressive's St. Louis service center in 2016. He was one of more than 100 veterans receiving vehicles through the initiative. Decker said Hayden also will receive about $10,000 worth of furniture and other household items donated by Progressive.

In a letter to Progressive, Hayden - recently divorced with shared custody and needing a dependable vehicle in which to transport his sons - wrote: "I have to be honest and say it's more in my heart to ask for the vehicle for my children's sake than mine ... . As a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, it truly impacts my heart to know that people are paying it forward in such a manner ... thank you from the bottom of my heart and my family's for all that you have done and will continue to do." He noted his sons want to go to a Chicago Cubs baseball game.


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