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Georgia men repair, give away cars

By Heidi Robinson*
Oct. 9, 2006 | AUGUSTA, Ga. (UMNS)

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Heidi Robinson

Robert Rich receives his car, compliments of the Mechanics Ministry.
A mechanical lift raises the 1990 Volvo sedan some five feet off the floor of the garage. Woody Rodgers pulls a wheel to inspect the new brakes and inspects the undercarriage.

"Should be good for another 40,000 miles," he says, as he pops the wheel back in place.

Rodgers and his partner have mounted new tires, relined the brakes and installed a new exhaust manifold on the 16-year-old Volvo.

"It's a car I'd take on a trip today," Rodgers says. "It's been checked and double-checked."

The labor and time lavished on this car will never show up on an invoice; and, the professional tools and expensive lift aren't part of a capital investment in Rodgers' own shop. Rodgers and a band of brothers who call themselves the Mechanics Ministry at Wesley United Methodist Church in Augusta will give this car away to a total stranger.

"It's a great feeling to be able to see the impact it makes on somebody's life. Just the joy these people have when they receive a car," Rodgers says.

A fresh start

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Heidi Robinson

The Rev. Greg Porterfield (far left) and Mechanics Ministry volunteers Scott Long (center, standing) and Woody Rodgers present Robert Rich with a restored Volvo.
On the other side of town, Robert Rich, 29, is ready for some joy. Formerly homeless, Rich and his children have had a long, hard road putting their lives back together. Rich knows that today he will have a car of his own and that reliable transportation could be the key to stability for his young family.

"This is going to be a fresh start for all of us," says Rich, sitting next to the school pictures of his son and daughter. His wife left the family, and he is their sole provider. Rich works as a dispatcher at an Augusta taxi company.

"You're constantly asking yourself questions like: 'Am I going to be able to get to work today?' Or, 'Are me and the kids going to have to walk in the rain to the babysitter's house?'" Rich says. "So having dependable transportation is a breath of fresh air. Amazing."

When a ride is not available, Rich says, he walks his two children to a baby sitter and then walks five miles to work. He says he cannot understand what motivates this group of men to find and fix a car for someone they've never met.

"If I can do anything for them, I would do it. I want to teach my children to do this for other people," he says. "I couldn't sleep last night. I am so excited, and nervous about this."

Repairing lives

Members of the Mechanics Ministry receive donated cars from members of their church, and Augusta families. Two men repair each vehicle.

"They're not just fixing cars, they're repairing lives," says the Rev. Greg Porterfield, pastor of Wesley Church.

Cars are given to individuals who need reliable transportation to either get a job or keep their employment. Rich will receive the 110th car the Mechanics Ministry has restored.

Scott Long, a founder of this group, waits at the church for Rich to arrive. Long says the men who work on each car are always present when the vehicle is passed to its new owner.

"We're doing what we're supposed to do. We've all got so much, we've been blessed. You just have to give back," Long says.

When a van rolls up to the church, Rich gets his first glance at his new car.

"I just can't wait to be able to take it to a car wash or change a tire because that means you actually have your own car," he says. His hands shake as he exits the van.

Long and Rodgers shake hands with Rich and help him sign the title. The Volvo has a new owner.

Rich says this experience makes him see the world differently.

"These are the first people who have looked at me and seen I am doing the best I can. It reminds me to never give up, to keep praying and to keep the faith."

More information on the Mechanics Ministry at Wesley is available by calling Pat Williams at (706) 869-0888.

*Robinson is a freelance producer based near Cleveland, Tenn.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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