Woolwich Community Service’s new partnership with Leroy’s Auto Care in Elmira sent two wheel-less locals home this week with new-to-them cars.

The partnership started a little differently than others WCS has had in the past, with executive director Kelly Christie’s daughter looking to upgrade her vehicle and Christie finding herself in Leroy’s hoping to have the vehicle checked out to be donated to one of their long-time volunteers.

“And then we got really, really nervous that we were going to give her a lemon because we knew it needed work, so we brought it here to see if Leroy would look at it and tell us if it needed work,” explained Christie of how she ended up in Leroy’s in the first place. “And then he said, ‘well we could look at it free of charge, we could fix it free of charge.’”

The new partnership hopes to have others donate their vehicles to WCS, see Leroy’s service it and then have it gifted to someone who would benefit from owning a vehicle.

“So now we are going to open this up to an option so that when people have a vehicle that may be still of good value … we can bring it here and Leroy’s team is going to look at it. If it is worth saving and working on, they will donate the time and then we will match it with a person,” she continued.

Leroy Martin, owner of Leroy’s Auto Care, said Christie couldn’t have came into the shop at a better time.

Kelly Christie, Catarina Peters-Dyck, Mackenzie Martin and Leroy Martin outside of Leroy’s Auto Care in Elmira, where Peters-Dyck went home with a van courtesy of a new program from Woolwich Community Services. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
“Our team here, we were talking about how we could do that – kind of give back to the community. We were thinking with vehicles because we do have some vehicles that come through here where someone just decides that  they are ready to move on,” he explained. “And if someone else would be willing to donate that, we are willing to donate our time.

“It is just a good partnership because we never know for sure who is out there that needs it – we are not connected with people out there like [WCS] is. This works really well because we are able to take care of the vehicle end of it,” said Martin.

Catarina Peters-Dyck of Elmira, a long-time volunteer with WCS, is the first recipient of the fruits of the new partnership. She chose a retired service van donated from Leroy’s to make it easier for her to run her business.

“I knew she was saving up for a car for a long time,” said Christie. “Catarina is a hard worker and she always gives back – she volunteers at the food bank once a week and she does our gardens when they need weeding always gives back to us.”

After Peters-Dyck chose to take a van from Leroy’s, Christie was able to place the second vehicle with another hard working individual in the community.

“She went back to school, has a skill and needed to find work outside of Elmira but had no vehicle, meaning she is limited to working in this area,” she said. “So the lady that is getting the car is over the moon. It is just two really good matches.”

Christie says looking forward, she wants the partnership to work for anyone who could benefit from a vehicle, but whose circumstances make acquiring one more difficult.

“It is kind of like with housing: some people can afford the mortgage payment but they can’t afford the down payment. So it will be someone like that, that can afford the insurance and the gas but they can’t get the car,” she said. “It is going to make a difference in their life.”

That could mean someone who has recently been separated, divorced or left an abusive relationship and now finds themselves with only one vehicle, she added.

However, Christie notes the partnership is very new and they are unsure of really how it will evolve. WCS is asking people who are looking to get rid of their car to consider donating it back into the community.

“We really don’t know what it is going to look like, how busy it will be or whatever. I am basically referring to it as a partnership so that if you do have that car that is still good or you think it is then Leroy’s will check it out and make that decision and we will honour his opinion. If you think it is worth it, Leroy’s is going to donate the time to bring that to standard,” she said. “This is a partnership with a local garage. We are receiving vehicles from local people so the recipients will be local just like we do with all of our other services. We will go from there.”