Nonprofit becomes second family for Rogue Valley kids

WHITE CITY, Ore. – A Rogue Valley man is taking his journey through addiction and turning it into a way to inspire kids.

Rico Gutierrez has a passion for cars, but there’s more to his story.

“I was a thug, I hung out with the wrong crowd. My thing was always to party. That wasn’t good. It took me to some dark spaces,” said Gutierrez.

By the time he was 18, he said he was already doing time in prison. Until he decided to get sober.

“This was one way that I was able to express myself,” said Gutierrez, as he was fixing up his low-rider car.

Putting his attention on low rider cars rather than drugs and alcohol he became a part of a family. He’s now adding to his family by sharing his love for cars with kids who are finding themselves in situations Gutierrez was once in. It’s an organization called Familia Unida Bike Builders, which means family united. What better way to come together┬áthan a family dinner.

“I think it’s really important to have dinner because it gives us an opportunity to sit down [as] a family,” said Gutierrez.

The program is also pulling on people’s hearts to help. By the way, Howard Hunt and Gutierrez speak, you’d think these two guys go way back. But Hunt started helping with the program just 7 months ago. For him, it’s not just about the cars it’s personal.

“My son has gone through a pretty rough time in his late teens and as a young adult with heroin addiction. It was pretty scary,” said Hunt.

Howard’s son is going through treatment and is 100 days sober.

Both Hunt and Gutierrez are taking this program to the next level. Usually, these kids build bikes, but now they’re restoring an actual car. Rico told NBC5 News he hopes these kids not only walk away with hands-on experience but also a second family.

“Till this day when I get in my car and put those oldies on I just get this big smile on my face. I’m able to share that with the kids.”

Familia Unida is hoping to have the vintage car finished in a couple of months. Once it’s down the organization will sell it. All proceeds will go back to the program.

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Katie Streit
NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]