If a smudge of auto grease got on her note pad, Cathy Heying wouldn’t have been surprised. Living two lives as a social worker and auto repair student could explain that. But if she hadn’t been so entwined in the lives of her social work clients, the urge to learn auto repair would never have happened. She recognized that if there was one thing that put a wrench into the lives of her clients, it was a broken down car that they couldn’t afford to repair, making it difficult to get to work.

With that in mind, Cathy hatched a plan to start up a non-profit auto repair business in Minneapolis. She studied the craft part-time at a local trade school, raised money, and in 2013 was able to sublet a single repair bay. As reported by Kim Palmer in the Minneapolis StarTribune (8-28-16), the Lift Garage charged only $15/hr. for labor to customers who met certain low income guidelines. As we all know, that compares with rates well over $100/hr. at most repair garages. Parts were sold at cost.

The need was great, and the Lift Garage has now grown to four repair bays with six full time employees. Over the last four years, about 700 customers have jointly saved an estimated half million dollars! Unfortunately, demand far exceeds capacity, and wait times can be up to three months. Expansion, however, is in the works.

Cathy reports that one of the hardest things about her job is having to tell customers that their car, often very old, is not worth the investment to repair it, even at bargain rates. Repairs that often lead to other needed fixes are also difficult to deal with.

Overall, costs to operate the Lift Garage exceed the incoming fees, so Cathy has found that she spends most of her time now soliciting donations and managing the place. Her days of grease on the note pad are few and far between.

A salute to Cathy Heying is in order for taking the initiative to help low income car owners—just another example of Love Lived Large.  If you would like to donate, check out:


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