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Sometimes helping someone is as easy as pointing them in the right direction to get help. Melissa Wallace and Bryan Finch from Windermere Centralia are recognizing the Auto-Care Ministry and other supporting affiliates for the work they do and have done to help our community.

When you live in a largely rural community like Lewis County, having a car is essential for keeping a job. And yet it’s one of the first things we neglect when money gets tight, says John Klumper, co-director of the Auto-Care Ministry, which helps people in need with simple car maintenance and repair. John works with clients and sponsors while Brad Althauser, the other co-director, works with the cars and mechanics. In 2003, Mark Hagar, then pastor of the Centralia Church of the Nazarene, started the ministry based off one he had heard about in Florida. Since then, it has grown to be a community project, with help from many churches and businesses county-wide. For those involved, it’s a family affair.

John Klumper
John Klumper with his grandson Nolan Dorsey, who helps out whenever he visits the area. With Klumper’s wife helping too, Auto-Care is definitely a family tradition of giving back. Photo courtesy: John Klumper

“Brad and I both have kids that grew up helping in the ministry and now we have grandkids that help out,” John says. “My one grandson is five years old and whenever he comes to town, he helps out at the Auto-Care. It’s awesome. My wife Jeanne is also a part of it – she helps in the office. She has been an awesome supporter over the years and is an amazing woman of God.”

In fact, Jeanne was Pastor Hagar’s assistant and helped get Auto-Care going. She does all the printing – flyers, jackets, hats, applications – for the ministry, though the applications are now done mostly online.

Keeping Your Car on The Road

Auto-Care Ministry’s goal is to help keep your car going by providing minor vehicle repairs and maintenance as inexpensively as possible. Anyone can apply, but they focus on single moms, widows, spouses of deployed military and those who are financially stressed. The group meets on the third Saturday of each month, except during July and December, to do the repairs.

“Safety is our main concern,” John says. “So we change headlights, wiper blades, oil and check fluids and tires. Second, we give them an honest and correct evaluation of what their car really needs. Often elderly people or women go into a place and are told ‘your battery is dead…you really need new tires.’ So we strive to give them an honest evaluation of what they really need.”

Local mechanics provide the labor for free. They come from all walks of life, and all are not members of the Centralia Church of the Nazarene. In fact, John says breaking down barriers between people of different faiths is one of their goals with the ministry. They meet at the church’s Outreach Center instead of the church itself, so as to not make anyone uncomfortable.  If parts are needed, local businesses including Baxter’s Auto Parts and Les Schwab Tires provide them at heavily discounted prices. Often, John says, at cost. Recently they helped a single mom who needed tires on her Suburban, which can easily cost $1,200 to $1,400. Les Schwab gave them a set of “take off” tires for only $400. Those involved chipped in and the tires were paid for by the time the lady got to Les Schwab. The bottom line is that they will work with you, regardless of what your financial situation is.

Auto Care Ministry Centralia
Nolan Dorsey helps Brad Althauser, co-director of Auto-Care, work on a car during one of their repair sessions. Photo courtesy: John Klumper

In addition, they get help from a local Boy Scout Troop 300. The boys earn community service hours and some have even received badges in cooking for making breakfast for the ministry. They are also working with the Young Life group to have them volunteer for their community service hours.

It’s about the People

On the day the ministry meets, people who have been selected for service will come to the Outreach Center and receive a free breakfast while their car is being worked on. John is there to talk to them and find out about other needs they may have. If he can, he helps with those needs too. After the work is done, lunch is often served as well for those who would like it.

There are many in our community whose cars are also their homes. For these people, a broke down car can mean death. They had a guy come to them with an old Dodge van that he was living in by the river. It was running rough, the back door leaked when it rained, and it had an exhaust leak. If he had turned on his engine to get warm and then fallen asleep, he would have died from the exhaust fumes. A tragedy like this just happened in Sisters, Oregon – a homeless man died in his car from CO poisoning.

“We emptied this van, cleaned it inside and out and then we fixed the exhaust leak – probably with a squirt of JB Weld and some duct tape,” John jokes. “But seriously, we fixed it and we also put a new seal on the back door. We didn’t charge him a dime.”

They Know about Rebuilding

A few years back, John couldn’t quite remember when, an arsonist burned down the church’s Outreach Center where the shop was. They lost everything. For almost a year they worked out of a trailer and a gravel parking lot.

But they survived and came back even better. “We have a beautiful new building with heat, pumped-in air, plenty of outlets and a locking tool room and a full diagnostics system,” John says. “I still have the one sign that’s charred and I put it out every month as a reminder that you can’t stop us.”

Auto Care Ministry
Brent Daniels, Kevin Curfman, Dave Hoel, Brad Althauser, Greg Rapaana, and Dale Hughes working on a Suburban. Photo courtesy: John Klumper

Having gone through this, they know about getting knocked off your feet and what it’s like to get back up. Their ministry is all about helping others do that too.

Education

Another part of the ministry is educating people on auto care. If they are interested, the ministry is more than happy to show people how to work on their cars themselves, as a way of empowering them. John also goes to our local schools and colleges and gives a presentation at this ministry.

If you would like to donate time and or funds to the Auto-Care Ministry, which is non-profit, please visit the Centralia Church of the Nazarene’s website.

If you are in need of car repair, visit the Centralia Church of the Nazarene’s website for their online application or call 360-736-9981, Monday – Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

“We show up to change oil and God shows up to change lives. Every time,” John says.

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