Des Plaines church's Good News Garage gains traction after being featured on WGN
Frank Hauser of Mount Prospect experiences heartwarming stories of goodwill throughout the year, not just around the holidays.
A retired certified master mechanic, Hauser started his Good News Garage in 2011 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Des Plaines. Its mission is to repair donated vehicles in order to give them to people in need.
It's something of a grass-roots effort, but over the last nine years Hauser has presented 26 cars to working people finding themselves on hard times, including seven this last year alone.
Interest is growing in his ministry, so much so that WGN-TV sent out a news crew last month to interview Hauser and learn more about his program. The segment aired late last month, and since then the ministry has fielded a dramatic increase in request for cars.
"We did get two more cars donated as a result of it," Hauser says, "but the demand for cars far outweighs the supply."
Nonetheless, he and his band of volunteers continue to work in a two-door, unheated garage on church property where they are advancing one of the core principles of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: "God's work; our hands."
Currently, they are working to repair a 2006 Pontiac Torrent, which was donated by a family from St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect. Hauser and his crew have earmarked the car for a widow working two jobs to afford her son's college tuition. Without a car, she was leasing one but could no longer afford the payments.
Hauser is part of a four-member committee who reviews each application for a car and ultimately decides whom they can help.
"It's based on need and the emergency of the situation," Hauser says. "In the end, it's God that leads us."
Of the seven recipients last year, many were widows or single mothers needing some sort of help with transportation. One was a teenager from Brazil who came to this country four years ago to live with his sister.
"He knew no English, but he graduated at the top of his (high school) class and earned a full ride to Harper College," Hauser says. "He needed a car to get to a job that would help pay for his books and expenses.
"It was really neat," Hauser adds, "to put a set of keys in his hands."
He shares another story of a homeless man living in his car in a Walmart parking lot. When eventually the car wouldn't work, he had no way to pursue a job.
"He received his car on a Tuesday, had interviews on Wednesday," Hauser says. "He had a job paying a living wage the next week."
These kinds of stories keep driving Hauser and his volunteers from church.
"We see people being helped and able to start their lives again all year long," he says.
The Rev. Linda Thurston, pastor, joined the congregation last fall after serving at Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Elk Grove Village. While she is new to the Good News Garage ministry, she saw its benefits immediately.
"It's something we can do," Thurston says, "share with folks in need, whether they are church members or not. It's something we feel called to do."
Hauser and his ministry are looking for volunteers -- and donated cars. No mechanical training is necessary, he says, and they will begin when the weather turns warmer.
To learn about volunteering for the Good News Garage or making a donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put it to the attention of Frank Hauser.