3 churches give vehicles to Austin moms; Several others get free repairs
Published 10:29 am Monday, May 18, 2015
Tina Janning didn’t know she would bring home a different van when she dropped her vehicle off at Cornerstone Church Saturday.
“I was just expecting an oil change today,” she said, tearing up.
Janning was one of about 50 women — single moms, widows or women with husbands deployed overseas — who brought her vehicle in for free repair at Saturday’s Care Care Clinic, which was run by volunteers at Cornerstone, Faith Evangelical Free Church and First United Methodist Church in Austin. Work included oil changes, tire rotations, checking brakes, getting cleaned, detailed, washed and any other more simple fixes. While the vehicles were fixed, the ladies were pampered at Cornerstone, getting their nails and hair done, massages, manicures and pedicures and more.
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But Janning was also one of at least three women to receive a new car from the churches that organized the event.
When Janning got the phone call that the volunteers couldn’t fix her vehicle and she would get a new car, she didn’t know what to say.
“It makes me want to cry,” she said. “It’s tough being a single mom and making ends meet, and car expenses aren’t cheap. So I don’t have the words to say thank you.”
Janning, 42, a single mom of two young boys at home and one older daughter, knew her car was acting up, but she didn’t expect to get it replaced.
“To know that these people cared enough without knowing me, to make sure I had something reliable for my two boys, I know that God played a big part in that,” she said.
Janning’s previous vehicle was replaced with a 1998 Chrysler Town & Country van. Yet Janning wasn’t the only one to get her car replaced Saturday. Ruth Zawadski, 68, received a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan to replace her 14-year-old van.
“Words can’t describe it, and normally I’m not speechless,” Zawadski laughed through tears.
Zawadski’s van, which she drove to Oklahoma many times to visit a friend who needed help, only had one window that still worked and a back door that wouldn’t always shut, sometimes opening while driving, among other issues. Zawadski, a widow, has custody of her 14-year-old grandchild and drives many great-grandchildren around, so a safe vehicle was important.
“I needed a van because I have a lot of kids,” she said.
She didn’t expect the newer van, but she hopes to pay it forward and help others. She thanked the volunteers that made this possible. Organizers planned to give away one or two more cars within the next few weeks as well.
‘It’s a blessing’
A Cornerstone group called Mission 507 started the Car Care Clinic three years ago to help people in the community. Brian and Daneen Theobald, and Kurt and Kim Jones, helped organize this year’s event. The Theobalds helped spark the event after hearing about another group doing something similar.
After starting at Cornerstone, the event grew to include the other churches.
This year, Brian said the goal was to help one community member for every woman they helped who is a member of the participating churches. About 40 percent of the women this year were from the church congregations, while 60 percent of the women were from the community.
“We hit our goal and more,” Brian said.
Nicole Semrau, a 30-year-old single mom with a 5-year-old son, didn’t expect the pampering along with the work.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “Walking in [the church], I didn’t expect all of this going on. It’s really nice.”
Semrau was recruited by a co-worker who attends Cornerstone. With her job and taking classes at Riverland Community College, Semrau didn’t have a lot of time to focus on herself.
“It’s nice to get pampered,” she said. “Especially for me right now it’s nice because I just graduated from college, so it’s nice to be focused on.”
She hopes to get more time to spend with her son now that she is done with school.
Brian said many of the women were surprised that people would help them fix their vehicles at no cost and spend a day making them feel pampered. He said there were a lot of happy tears Saturday.
“The main thing is because [the women] don’t think anybody’s willing to help them, sometimes they’re afraid to reach out and that there is good people in the world,” he said. “And we want to help them see that God’s light will shine on everyone, and you don’t have to be just a church-going person to receive those benefits.”
For 47-year-old Jammie Bauer, a single mom of a 17-year-old daughter, the cost of car repairs can be daunting.
“I knew I couldn’t afford a shop,” she said. “There’s no way, so I just called [my landlord] to see if they knew of anyone who would take payments or something.”
She was referred to the car clinic at Cornerstone and was surprised to find people willing to help someone they didn’t even know.
“It’s amazing, very kind,” she said. “I didn’t think people like this actually existed.”
She was happy to have her nails painted by volunteers Saturday, and said she hasn’t gotten the chance to pamper herself in a while.
“You don’t do that very often, and when you do you feel guilty,” she said.
“It’s just amazing because I didn’t think people were this nice,” she added. “And not judgmental.”
‘It’s really neat’
Brian said the car clinic wouldn’t have been possible without the 90-plus volunteers that showed up Saturday, helping to fix and drive the cars, wash and vacuum, help with food, greet the women at the door, do hair and nails, give massages and more. Members from Cornerstone, Faith Evangelical Free and First United Methodist, along with youth group members and other volunteers, helped out; even some of the moms from previous years helped.
Heather Sheely, a 25-year-old who attends Cornerstone, helped paint nails with her sister Saturday.
“It feels good, it just seems like we’re here to have fun,” she said. “We like to do this stuff anyway, so it doesn’t feel like an obligation. It’s like we’re having fun, a girl’s day.”
Volunteers fixed cars at both Holiday Ford, run by Nathan Toland, and South Main Auto, run by Ed Wells. Previous years they only needed one shop, but since they have expanded the clinic, they needed two shops this year. Wells said he couldn’t imagine not opening his garage for such a good cause.
“It’s a really amazing thing to see the organization they’ve got,” he said. “I mean they’ve really got this nailed; they’ve got a system. It’s really neat.”
Both volunteers and shop employees helped work on the cars. Tom Dunlap, a member of Cornerstone and Mission 507, has done the car clinic all three years.
“It’s more or less, Mission 507 is for caring and serving people,” he said. “And hoping that through our actions and such, [people] come to know the Lord.”
Brian hoped the women walked away with a peace of mind, knowing their vehicle was safe to drive and knowing there were people in the community who care about helping others.
“We want to make sure that they’re safe,” he said. “I don’t want to be sending someone home with a vehicle that’s unsafe. And that’s our main goal, because there’s a lot of vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road. They’ve got little ones to protect, that’s really what it comes down to.”