October 1, 2023

Keys to a Brighter Future


By Carol Vaughn, HCDE

HOUSTONAfter months without reliable transportation while juggling work and a family as a single-parent household, Harris County Department of Education Head Start single moms Sheena Gulley and Parishellia Banks are receiving a special gift from Bates Collision Centers: the gift of transportation.

In this 20th year, HCDE Head Start’s partnership with Bates Collision Centers is giving away cars No. 35 and 36 to two moms who will be recognized with the Responsible Parenting Award. Owners Lee and Leila Bates have made this annual giveaway a priority because they recognize the sacrifices parents often make in order to provide for their children.

Banks and Gulley were nominated by Head Start Center managers. Bates employees donate time to work on the cars and help fill them with gifts, and other community members and businesses donate gas, insurance and materials needed to rehab the cars.

Leila Bates, co-owners of Bates Collision Centers, says both she and her husband Lee are proud of their employees who continue to supply time and resources to families they have yet to meet.

“Wow, it’s hard to believe that our tradition of gifting transportation to hardworking, deserving families in need is 20 years old,” said Lee Bates. “Even though this program is all about giving to others, there’s no doubt that we are the ones that receive the biggest gift, the gift of helping others.”

“It’s our favorite day of the year, when we get to see the smiles on the families’ face as they tear off the bright red wrapping paper to find their shiny ‘new’ car inside, said Leila Bates.

“It’s especially fun to hear the giggles of the kiddos as they open the trunk to find it loaded with gifts with their names on them. It’s a 20-year-old Christmas tradition that gets all of our staff involved in the spirit of giving.”

HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. said this about the lasting partnership: “Generous community members like the Bates, their employees and supporters set the bar for community service. These cars transform families, and we’re thankful for 20 years of commitment and giving from the Bates.”

About Sheena Gulley, HCDE Head Start Fifth Ward Center, recipient of the 35th rehabbed car: Sheena Gulley is a single mother of two sons Marcus, 13, and Jay’Me, 2, and two daughters Zyriah, 8 and Myriah, 4.

Gulley relies on Metro and Uber to get to and from work. She is unable to spend much time with her children or attend their school activities because of no transportation and work schedule. She will soon begin taking online GED classes with HCDE, which are free and offer flexible learning opportunities for busy adults.

About Parishellia Banks, HCDE Head Start Baytown, recipient of the 36th rehabbed car: Parishellia Banks is currently raising her niece’s two-year-old son, Jayce, after she passed way during childbirth.

Banks relies on family and friends to take her and her great nephew to work and school. She also suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and finds it difficult to make doctor appointments because of no transportation.

About Harris Count Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax of approximately $9 per homeowner.


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