The Laura Recovery Center was created in memory of Laura Smither. The 12 yr old Friendswood girl was abducted and later found murdered in 1997.
LRC now works to prevent child abductions and runaways, and to recover missing children by creating closer partnerships among law enforcement. The organization was the recipient of Toyota's "100 Cars for Good" program, in which 100 vehicles are awarded to 100 nonprofit organizations over the course of 100 days.
The presentation was made by company president Jim Lentz at Toyota Center in downtown Houston.
Picture is of Gay and Bob Smither, founders of the Laura Recovery Center, Ricardo White of Ron Carter Toyota, and Jim Lentz, president and COO, Toyota Motor Sales.
"They were chosen not by Toyota, but by the public as the winner of this vehicle. The Toyota 100 Cars for Good program has brought a lot of well deserved attention to both the Laura Recovery Center, as well as the other 500 finalists. We're proud to be playing a role in bringing the awareness to each of these great nonprofit organizations."
Founders Bob and Gay Smither say the new car will help spread the mission their small organization.
"We do what we can with the resources that we have. Our staff has been incredibly loyal. They have worked for us tirelessly for many years without a pay raise, and that's an extraordinary devotion to the issue."
Bob Smither : "We are truly blessed with the volunteers that we have. Our board is all volunteer, and we've got a core group of volunteers. Several of them devote one or even two days a week consistently, and it's the thing that allows us to do the work that we do."
The donation will allow the center to expand it educational outreach program called SKATE, Safe Kids Are Taught Early, to more local schools to help decrease the risk of child abduction.
It's been a source of hope for Joann Lowitzer. She and her husband live in Spring, and hope for the return of their 16 year old daughter Ally, who's been missing for more than a year.
"We don't have any clues as to what happened to her, but then hear of stories of other teens, and even adults, that just go missing and then that are found dead. That's the nightmare part of it."
Bob Smither says the recovery rate of LRC mirrors the national rate. About a third of missing children are recovered, a third found deceased, and a third are still missing.