How church's Good News Garage helps get people on the road again
Frank Hauser of Mount Prospect describes himself as something of a Dr. Doolittle -- with cars.
"Dr. Doolittle spoke to animals," he quips. "I speak to cars."
In fact, he cannot remember a time when he wasn't tinkering with cars. Hauser spent more than 50 years working with cars, trucks, buses and heavy equipment. As a certified master mechanic, he worked for dealerships and managed repair shops in Chicago before completing his career as a mechanic and manager for Motor Coach Industries in Des Plaines.
All of which led to his current passion, where he professes to be having more fun than ever. In 2011, Hauser started the Good News Garage at Trinity Lutheran Church in Des Plaines modeled after a similar program in Vermont.
The Rev. Kim Beckmann, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, says the Good News Garage and a community lunch held the second Saturday of each month make visible the priorities for faith in action as a congregation.
"Assisting neighbors with hunger and other economic needs is one of the things you'll see us enthusiastic about when we're at our best as followers of Jesus," Beckmann says.
Hausman and fellow mechanic Kevin Lang agree. They work in a two-door, unheated garage on the church property where they are advancing one of the core principles of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: "God's work; our hands."
Their mission is simple: 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 eight years, Hauser has presented 18 cars to working people finding themselves on hard times.
Hauser gets to personally hand them the key, and nothing makes him happier, he says.
"We get to make a small difference in people's lives," Hauser says. "We show that God cares enough to have total strangers help them, with no strings attached.
"Bad things happen to good people," he adds. "Sometimes, we all need a hand getting back on our feet."
The cars, he says, often turn up out of the blue.
Currently, he is working on a 2002 Honda Civic and he just brought a 2001 Cadillac STS to be inspected at Busse Automotive in Mount Prospect. If the Cadillac is found to need extensive repairs, it will be sold to a scrapyard, with the money it earns going back into the program.
Hauser hopes to present the Honda to a retired nurse later this week. Her old car died, he says, and she needs a car to go for cancer treatments twice a week.
He loves to share similar success stories, including the car he presented to a local woman named Sheeree. She had lost everything in her Des Plaines home after a flood, including all of her disabled son's medical equipment.
"We were able to supply her with a minivan to help her get to and from the hospital," Hauser says, "with her son and his equipment."
Hauser points to Sheneyce, a single mother with two daughters who was taking an Uber ride to and from her job working in the medical field. Those rides added up to roughly $500 a month, he adds.
"After we gave her a car," Hauser says, "her monthly transportation expense came down to $200, allowing her to pay her bills on time."
Currently, 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.
"I will be happy to teach what is needed and supervise," Hauser says. "Besides, it's fun to talk about it with people. They respond so well to our stories of hope and kindness."
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.