Reliable transportation isn’t always a given, but it is necessary for a lot of things, such as getting to work, taking kids to school, or making it to important medical appointments.
It’s essential for moving forward.
But what happens when emergency car repairs or regular maintenance aren’t in the budget? Messiah Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Ed Doerner discovered the answer in 2011 when his church partnered with Suderman’s Car Care in Midland to provide free oil changes to single moms. Several cars that were brought in had to be condemned because they were so unsafe.
Seeing a need in the community sparked the creation of His Hands Auto Care in Midland, a non-profit, full-service garage where qualified clients can go to receive auto services at dramatically reduced prices.
In order to qualify for reduced service prices, clients must live or work in Midland County, earn less than two times the federal poverty guidelines, and have proof of ownership for the vehicle that needs repairs. Agencies that can qualify clients include The Salvation Army, Senior Services, the Department of Human Services, Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency, Midland Area Homes, and the Disability Network.
“There is a huge need in the community for this,” says Wes Allison, garage manager of His Hands Auto Care. “Usually, the people who come here are in desperate need. A lot of these people are just barely making it, and car repairs can be a huge ordeal.”
Not having the means to afford car repairs can get expensive and further the cycle of poverty—a cycle the garage aims to help break.
Allison explains that Messiah Lutheran Church pays for the garage’s utilities, and the full-paying customers—those who have the financial means to pay locally competitive prices—help to keep the garage running and to support the work completed for those without the financial ability.
“It’s kind of a one-for-one model,” Allison says. “Every hour customers are paying for services, they are helping someone with low income get an hour’s worth of repairs.”
Clients pay only $10 per hour for service—some garages charge upward of $70 per hour—plus the cost of parts, Allison explains. The garage’s goal is to charge clients only for the cost of parts, but Allison says the client-to-customer ratio needs to be closer to 50:50 to operate that way. Currently, the ratio fluctuates between 70:30 and 60:40.
“We would like to go back to free labor for clients, but it is just not feasible right now,” he explains.
The garage has three staff members, including Allison, but His Hands also receives support from volunteers, some giving as many as 30 hours per week to work in the garage. Allison says the garage is open to offering internships, too, in order to help keep operating costs down so work can continue.
His Hands also runs a car donation program. Community members who donate their vehicles get tax credits, and individuals who need vehicles pay only for the parts of any necessary repairs, along with the license and registration costs.
One woman paid only $23 for a rebuilt vehicle. “It gives people hope and a sense of freedom to have their own transportation,” Allison says.
For more information on His Hands Auto Care, visit www.hishandsauto.com, or call 989-331-0633.
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