CREF Introduces 2024 Executive Committee, Announces New Chair and Welcomes Two New Board Members

Hoffman Estates, Ill. (February 12, 2024) –

The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) is excited to introduce its newly appointed Executive Committee, which consists of seven industry professionals who are dedicated to supporting the future of the industry through engagement with collision schools and students. The Foundation is happy to announce Brenda Hogen (Parts Trader) has been named to the position of Chair for 2024, and CREF is also happy to welcome two new Board members: Mark Allen (Audi America) and Chris Dewes (PPG).

CREF’s 2024 Executive Committee includes:

Chair Brenda Hogen (Parts Trader)

Vice-Chair Mark Helvenston (IAA, Inc.)

Treasurer Mark Verbois (Enterprise Holdings)

Secretary Sandee Lindorfer (Allstate Insurance Company)

Trustee-at-Large Stacy Bartnik (Intertek)

Immediate Past Chair Steve Schmidt (State Farm)

“I’m truly honored to help lead an organization that’s transforming lives every day and defining the future of the collision repair industry,” Hogen shares. “CREF is on a mission to increase engagement, provide opportunities for students, connect schools with resources and create a robust support network within the collision repair industry. My primary goal is to increase engagement across all channels to bridge the gap, help solve the technician shortage crisis, educate the public and ensure that all students are aware of and have access to the vast array of successful careers in our industry. “In order for our industry to continue to thrive, we need a new generation of highly skilled technicians,” she continues.

“I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees and staff at CREF and the larger collision repair community to engage with students in innovative and creative ways. Let’s ensure that our institutions get the funding they need to spread the word about these amazing opportunities and ensure there will be no shortage of skilled technicians.”

“I look forward to advancing CREF’s mission of supporting collision repair educational programs, schools and students,” Verbois indicates. “Like CREF, Enterprise Mobility is dedicated to addressing the industry-wide technician shortage through the Collision Engineering Program.”

Lindorfer agrees: “I look forward to supporting CREF’s mission and vision by continuing to create awareness of the collision repair industry across stakeholders. I’m passionate about addressing technician shortages in the industry and growing school programs by promoting the collision repair career paths available to youth.”

“CREF does such amazing things and not everyone even knows who they are,” Bartnik offers. “One of my goals is to move CREF into the industry spotlight, so everyone can know the great things we are doing and generate even more support for our mission.”

In addition to the Executive Committee, the Foundation Board of Trustees consists of:

Mark Allen (Audi America)

Keith Bell (Axalta)

Kristle Bollans (CSN Collision USA)

Mike Croker (Industrial Shelving Systems)

Chris Dewes (PPG Industries)

John Eck (General Motors)

Paul Folino (LKQ Corporation)

Ty Gammill (Caliber Collision Centers)

Andreas Hecht (CCC Intelligent Solutions)

Doug Irish (Fayetteville Technical Community College)

Josh Krentz (Forbes Road Career and Technology Center)

Ryan West (GEICO)

“Growing up in an auto racing family, there was an ever-present call to learn fabrication and metal working,” Allen recalls how his career in the industry began. “Around 16, I started repairing rust and small repair jobs while in high school. The 70’s were a great time for rust! My career is what facilitated my first trip to Europe. This is something that can be enticing for people entering the collision repair industry. You can be more than a tech; there are many avenues to explore and plenty of great people to help you along the way. All you have to do is ask.”

As a CREF Board member, Allen hopes “to be able to show the young of America and their parents that the collision industry can be an honorable career path that does not discriminate in the way people learn. Career advancement and paths are plentiful.”

He believes it’s important to support CREF because “For too many years, we’ve heard, ‘I can’t get techs, I can’t get writers, I can’t…’ We can attract new talent, we can have profitable and rewarding careers, we can attract the next generations. It’s not the famous movie quote ‘build it and they will come;’ clearly that is not working. At CREF, we can build it so that they will want to come.”

Dewes’ collision career began later in life. “After 15 years in the banking and finance industry, I wanted to change industries. I joined the PPG Automotive Refinish business unit in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. Since I joined the industry as an outsider, I wanted to learn how everything worked and asked thousands of very ignorant questions. I didn’t realize how complex and technical our industry could be…Now, I know!”

As a new addition to CREF’s Board, Dewes looks forward “to bringing awareness and excitement to our industry and finding ways to help address the labor shortage. We need to generate awareness and excitement for our industry. I think back to when I came into the industry in 2012 and had no idea what was involved with the collision industry. Had I known that sooner, I would have left the finance industry much sooner!”

Trustee Emeriti include J. Laurence “Larry” Costin (CCC Information Services, Inc.), Lirel G. Holt (U, Inc.) and Chuck Sulkala.

Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs can Contact Us to learn about the many ways to get involved. Monetary donations can be made online.

The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at: www.CollisionRepairEducationFoundation.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic or any of CREF’s initiatives, please email info@ed-foundation.org.

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