I take donated, broken-down cars, fix them up and then give them to low-income families in rural South Carolina that are in desperate need of transportation. It can totally transform that person’s life. It is an absolute blessing to do this and I can see the Lord’s hand in how all this got started.
I love to barbecue, especially ribs made from my great grandmother’s recipe that has been passed down in my family since 1898. My friends love them, and they convinced me to enter a rib cooking competition in September 2019. I’d never done anything like that but I entered. To my amazement, I won and got $1,000 in prize money!
The cook off took place in Andrews, South Carolina, a fairly poor, rural area of the state. I could tell there were some real needs there and I felt led to do something for them. So I took half my prize money and used that as seed money for a Thanksgiving food drive for the people in that area. Folks heard what I was doing and helped by donating money and items. I put together 217 boxes for families consisting of a turkey or ham, candied yams, rice and mac and cheese. After we got done distributing the boxes, there were still all sorts of families in the back of the line that didn’t get any food. And I noticed they were walking home. There was no public transportation, no Uber, no way to get anywhere unless they walked. Many of them had walked five miles to get in line for the food because they didn’t have a car. And now they had to walk several miles to return home. With no food.
That’s when the idea came to me.
I had been a trained mechanic for almost 20 years. I’d gone to a mechanic school in Texas, worked in some mom-and-pop auto repair shops, and then worked side by side with my dad who had his own shop. I noticed there were a lot of broken-down vehicles in the area. I wondered if I could take one of those cars that nobody wanted and fix it up for a family that had no means of transportation.
So I offered a slab of ribs—the award-winning ribs!—to anyone that donated a broken down car to me. And someone did donate a 1999 Toyota Camry. I towed it to my yard and worked on it at night for several weeks, and then gave it to a lady in that area who had close to nothing. It’s hard to describe her expression, the sheer joy on her face. She said she could now drive her kids to the beach so they all could see it for their very first time. And that beach was only 20 miles away.
She told me I had changed her life.
I longed to see that joy on another face and knew I had to keep doing this. So I did. I continued to offer a slab of ribs for any car that wouldn’t run. And several other people donated their broken vehicles. I would tow them to my yard and start working on them. And cars continued to come available.
In just over two years, we have fixed up 64 vehicles and donated them to people in real need in the community. I also give the people instructions on how to care for the vehicle, where to put the fluids, etc. My goal is to find, tow, fix up and donate five cars each month. We’ve currently got a supply of 37 donated vehicles that need to be worked on. They’re stored in a field behind my house, just waiting to be worked on.
I do all the work in my backyard. It’s just me and Matthew, a mechanic that lost his job during the pandemic. I hired him and he has worked on every car after that first one. Since we currently work on these cars outside, we’re at the mercy of the weather, whether that be rain, the summer humidity or the winter cold. So we formed a foundation to raise money for a repair facility so we can work on these cars in any type of weather. I don’t take a dime for any of this, but I’ve got to find a way to continue to pay Matthew.
As a child, I saw my parents live out their Christian faith. When someone needed help, they pitched in. They loved others and put that love into action. This was ingrained in me. If someone had an appliance break down, my parents would organize a fish fry to raise money for that family to replace that appliance. So I had wonderful examples of loving others all through my childhood.
The Lord has truly blessed me. I don’t know if it’s because of what I’m doing for others but it is amazing what is happening. After winning that cookoff in late 2019, I opened up a drive-thru barbecue restaurant. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just a couple weeks before the pandemic hit. While most businesses struggled, our drive thru business kept plugging along and growing. Five months ago, we added an outside dining area. People are loving our food, and we’ve been doing better every month.
I am used to seeing a need and asking God how I can help meet that need. I want to make these rural communities better. What’s next? Perhaps I can help these neighbors with house repairs by getting a group of volunteer plumbers and repair men to help fix up their houses. I don’t know. I’ll see where God leads me.
All I know is that I’m the one that is being blessed every time I’m able to give someone a free car. It opens up a whole new world to them. That joy on their face is the blessing that I receive.