Award helps Naperville car shop keep jobseekers on the road
A national award for a Naperville auto repair shop will benefit a DuPage County charity that helps low-income employees and jobseekers afford reliable transportation.
With half of a $20,000 grant from Synchrony Financial for the Working Forward Small Business Award, Clark's Car Care will support Care for Cars, a nonprofit that helps people who are trying to improve their employment afford needed car repairs.
With the other half of the award the shop received Thursday, as one of only 10 honorees across the nation, Clark's will fund training for its 11 employees to keep them up to speed on the computerized intricacies of Japanese, European and U.S.-made cars, co-owner Matt Weber said.
"There couldn't have a been a better time for this to happen -- for them or for us," he said. "We're going to be able to jump-start, no pun intended, the Care for Cars project."
Established in 2013, Care for Cars works with job coaches at DuPage County nonprofits, who pass along clients who face transportation obstacles, President John Tartaglione said. No jobseeker can come to Care for Cars on his own, but those referred through job coaches can get repairs made for $200 or 20 percent of the retail value of the work -- whichever is cheaper.
Weber, who started Clark's Car Care with his wife Laura 16 years ago, said the shop has fixed 80 cars for Care for Cars during the past five years.
Chad Pedigo, director of community engagement for Bridge Communities, said the clients his organization helps with transitional housing often run into trouble with their cars. Some have been assisted by Care for Cars.
"The loss of a vehicle and the opportunity for transportation can very quickly cascade" into other issues in a worker's life, Pedigo said.
Tartaglione said Care for Cars fixed 38 cars last year. This year, with added funding from the Working Forward award, he hopes to repair 50.
Clark's got on Synchrony Financial's radar when Laura Weber applied for the Working Forward award, now in its second year. Synchrony provides 12-month financing for customers of Clark's who need extra time to pay. The car shop attracted the financial firm's attention with the ways it treats people, said Jen Robinson, Synchrony's small business marketing leader.
"Matt said he's not worried about competition because he's all about trust and loyalty," she said. "We're here to celebrate their success, not only in business, but in the community."
The award presentation at the shop at 440 Industrial Drive, near the Naperville emissions testing station, was a gathering of auto industry leaders, including the Automotive Service Association of Illinois, which represents independent shops. Co-executive Directors Donna Kelly and Deb Bullwinkel said funding from the Working Forward award will help Clark's keep its technicians well-trained.
"This is a very expensive industry to be in," Bullwinkel said. "One vehicle could have 200 or so computers. It's a very complicated machine that we have on the road today."