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Baltimore Sun: Mechanic donates entire auto repair shop to car-fixing, employee-training charity

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Associations | Business Practices | Repair Operations

Aging owners trying to decide the future of their shop might consider an unusual but generous gesture: Donate the entire thing to charity.

The Baltimore Sun last week featured mechanic Jerry Greeff who gave Vehicles for Change his $2.5 million-a-year One Stop Auto Repair business. The donation was unusual in itself, but it also included a stipulation that the charity keep his legacy in business, the Sun reported.

Vehicles for Change is like a mix of Recycled Rides and Habitat for Humanity: It fixes donated cars and sells them to the needy for as low as $750 through a low-interest loan.

No longer tethered to public or paid transportation, recipients can commute to better jobs, and the charity found that 75 percent of new car owners reported a combination of better jobs and an average of $7,000 more in salary a year. (Now that’s the “mobility” that matters.) The charity vets donor cars to ensure they’ll be of high-enough quality and guarantees the repaired versions for 24,000 miles or two years.

Keeping Greeff’s auto repair shop alive serves that effort, the Sun reported, but it also helps out the other half of the charity’s mission. The organization runs the Center for Automotive Careers — a resource the collision industry might want to consider (or copy). The program prepares former inmates for jobs in auto repair and detailing.

“Students in the detail training program currently hone their skills on cars donated to VFC,” the organization states. “They detail vehicles before they are awarded to families or sold.”

The group has expanded the car-donation effort to Detroit and anticipates doing the same with its training programs, and collision repairers and mechanical shops in Maryland, Virginia and Michigan should keep an eye on the group as a source of hires. Should the group expand further, Vehicles for Change could be a good way to address some of the tech shortage the collision repair industry is facing.

Inmates might be an unorthodox source of employees, but remember that these folks are dedicated enough to complete the training program, and Vehicles for Change has an incentive not to send a shop men and women who will embarrass the charity. (Shops still uncomfortable with hiring former convicts might want to tap other local charity and governmental workforce-training programs for employees with similar skills and work ethics.)

According to the Sun:

“Ninety-five percent of them have come directly out of prisons to us,” (Vehicles for Change President Martin) Schwartz said. “We go into the prison system quarterly and we identify those guys that are ready to come out and are recommended.”

The 18-month-old training program, based on Washington Boulevard in Halethorpe, has placed 30 graduates into jobs. Another 14 are still in training, working 40 hours per week and receiving $8.50 an hour.

“Some guys who graduated are in Clarksville at Eyre Bus, two guys are in body work in Bel Air, we’ve got some guys at Antwerpen (dealerships) and at Mile One,” Schwartz said. One graduate, he said, got involved in drugs and is back in prison. …

Greeff said the training program not only fills a need for ex-prisoners, but for the business he has devoted his life to.

“There is definitely a shortage of qualified people in almost every aspect of this industry,” he said. “There is an opportunity here for trained people.”

Read the entire story here on the Sun. It’s a neat little feature that ought to speak to collision repairers and mechanics alike.

More information:

“Baltimore auto shop owner donates his $2.5 million business to nonprofit”

Baltimore Sun, Jan. 10, 2017

Vehicles for Change website

Featured image: The logo for Vehicles for Change is shown. (Provided by Vehicles for Change)