Going to an auto repair shop can be a huge hassle, especially when it comes to the price. Many people have to part ways with their car or turn to public transportation until repairs can be made simply because it’s too expensive. Certain people get hit harder by high costs more than others, including single mothers, widows and wives of deployed military service members. That is, of course, unless you meet Chris Williams.
Williams is a former pastor in Conroe, Texas, who usually goes by the name PC for “Pastor Chris.” Several years ago, Williams was driving along the highway and spotted a single mother with her child in walking on the side of the road after leaving his service. Williams offered to give them a ride, and “They told me that their car had been in the shop for months and they couldn’t afford to get it out,” he said. “Right then, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to get my dream of opening a free garage off the ground.”
It took several months, but Williams was able to get enough money from donations and personal loans, opening up the shop that he dubbed God’s Garage. Within a few years, not only was Williams able to not only repair hundreds of cars, but also gave away many that had been donated. For those that had under $1,000 in needed repairs, they were worked on and given to the women in need.
Williams himself doesn’t actually like working on cars all that much, but he has help from volunteers to fix what he can’t. He’s learning, though. “My dad taught me the basics of car care,” and it’s all for a good cause. “I know what it’s like to be short on money and long on car troubles,” he 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.”
God’s Garage is over 3,500 square feet, and sits right next to his own home. The women that he’s helped have been extremely grateful, including Jeanne McCowan. “Several years ago, I became ill and could not maintain my job and I lost my car because I could not work,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a recipient of one of their cars. They are the nicest people ever. I love it.”
Funding is still provided by donations, which have been pouring in as more and more people learn about God’s Garage and their mission. When cars are donated that can no longer be driven, they’re sold for scrap parts to keep the charity flowing. More people are signing up to volunteer, as well, including Harvey Yaw.
“The women, when they come to get their cars, you see the old guys, the tears start flowing and just the reactions to those ladies getting the car, that’s what keeps you coming back…The people are so grateful – their emotion always brings tears of happiness,” he said.
When asked about how he feels when helping somebody in need, Williams doesn’t argue with Yaw that he does indeed get emotional. Recalling one moment, Williams said a young girl approached him and said “‘Mister, do you know this means mommy can take me to the doctor and to the store and to school?’ And year, that kind of got to me.”
There’s now a waiting list of several hundred women hoping to receive help from Williams and his team at God’s Garage, and no list is too long for them. He decided to help women specifically as he says that women are often taken advantage of at auto repair shops when mechanics drive up the price with unnecessary repairs. “Sadly, there are people who will prey on just about anyone,” Williams 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.”
He added that “There are some unscrupulous people in the world who might take advantage of ladies, because of (perceived) lack of knowledge of a car, so we said ‘Let’s help those people. Let’s jump in there and make sure they’re taken care of.’”
One recipient, Lisa Garman, said “Unbelievable. I mean, who does that? Who gives someone a car? Miracles happen. One happened to me.” Williams was happy to help, saying “We get so caught up in getting a better car, a better house…Those things are great and they’re important, but at the end of the day, what I think we should make is a difference in other people’s lives. Anybody can do that.”