After personally struggling with car troubles for years, and realizing how many people have issues with their cars, a former pastor decided he was going to help women in need.
The back story
It all started eight years ago. One rainy night, Pastor Chris Williams was driving home from church when he stumbled upon a mother and child from his congregation walking along a busy highway. He immediately pulled over and asked why they were walking home.
“They told me that their car had been in the shop for months and they couldn’t afford to get it out,” Williams told PEOPLE. “Right then, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to get my dream of opening a free garage off the ground.”
Williams, who was at the time a children’s pastor, made it his personal mission to open a non-profit garage that was donation based.
Several months after the encounter with the women and child on the highway, Williams opened God’s Garage, an auto repair service that assists single mothers, widows, and wives with deployed spouses with their car troubles.
The garage has been in action since 2012, with rotating volunteers, and donors that keep it going, which has allowed for over 200 free car repairs and 100 restored vehicles given away for free.
“I know what it’s like to be short on money and long on car troubles,” Williams said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed that my car would start in the morning so I could get to work.”
Although William’s father was a trained mechanic, he did not learn the trade growing up, which made his decision to open up shop difficult.
“My dad went to tech school to become a mechanic before he became a pastor, and I followed him into the pastor side of things, but didn’t know much about cars,” he said. “My dad taught me the basics of car care, and I grew up watching him help people stuck on the side of the road.”
According to the God’s Garage website, William’s did not learn to appreciate his dad’s skills until he grew up.
“Unfortunately, as I got older, the things that I should have learned, I didn’t, as I found myself short on money and long on car troubles. I prayed to God many times that my car would start in the morning so I could get to work. No money for parts, much less labor!” he explained.
“I told God that if I could make a difference for people in my situation, I would gladly help them.”
Williams explained that after hearing horror story after horror story about single moms and widows with car issues, he decided he needed to do something to assist.
“Sadly there are people who will prey upon just about anyone,” he said. “Also, car repairs are so expensive, and where I live, it’s rural. So if you don’t have a car, you can’t get a job. And if you don’t have a job, you can’t buy a car. It’s a cruel dilemma to be in.”
Harvey Yaw, a volunteer in his 60’s explained how much joy it brings him to see a mother be able to drive a working car after struggling for so long.
“There’s no greater joy than seeing a mom finally be able to start her car up and drive it home,” Yaw said.
“And when people donate their old cars and we fix them up and give them away, there’s a feeling that’s unbelievable. The people are so grateful — their emotion always brings tears of happiness.”
A few years ago Shelby Grimet was gifted a renovated Honda 2004 CRV and says that because of it her life has changed dramatically.
“It was hard to get a job because I had no way to get there,” Grimet said, “and there’s no way that I could have afforded to buy a car of any kind. It would take forever to get anywhere on the bus.”
Grimet, who is the mother of a five-year-old boy named Rylan, added that the new car gave them a new level of freedom that alleviated so much stress.
“God’s Garage has given us freedom and has taken away a lot of our stress,” she said. “Every day, they’re changing people’s lives. They’ve certainly changed mine.”