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Driven to help

Cruisin’ the Coast has a tradition of running like a well-oiled engine, but an event of that magnitude doesn’t happen without lots of year-round, behind-the-scenes help.

Annually, 700 to 800 volunteers from regional car clubs pitch in to help make Cruisin’ a memorable experience for spectators and car enthusiasts from around the country.

Donna Holland is vice president for one such car club, the Misfits. The Bay St. Louis organization is 14 years old, making it one of the oldest on the Coast. It has more than 100 members. Holland says 13 area car clubs sign on as official Cruisin’ sponsors and lend a hand with everything from stuffing envelopes to parking.

“As soon as one Cruisin’ is over,” she says, “we start all over again."

And while other local car clubs don’t officially sponsor the event, some — like Oldies, but Goodies, based in Diamondhead — still pitch in. President Mark Duffy reports that Oldie members help out with peripheral matters like traffic control.

“And on the Sunday before Cruisin’, the club takes our cars to Dunbar nursing home in Bay St. Louis,” Duffy says. “The older folks may be confined, but they sure enjoy seeing cars from the era they grew up in."

Holland says all area clubs share that same altruistic nature. The owners of gleaming, glamour cars are driven by more than just a love of vintage automobiles, she says.

For instance, a classic car is raffled off as a traditional part of the Cruisin’ event, raising thousands for the Make A Wish foundation. In 2009, a check for $22,500 was presented to the charity.

And throughout the year, Coast-area clubs sponsor smaller events, helping to pay hospital bills for sick children or raise awareness for breast cancer. The Misfits host an annual national show in Bay St. Louis. In 2009, they divided the $4,500 they raised among the senior citizens’ center, the animal shelter and the food pantry.

“Car club members are a wonderful group of people — just like family,” Holland says. “And they enjoy helping others."