The general manager of a body shop in St. Louis, Mo., is helping people in need by bestowing them with donated vehicles his shop refurbishes.
Scott McRoberts of the family-owned Hart Auto Body in Florissant has teamed with six area churches to provide good, safe, dependable vehicles for church-chosen recipients.
"This is an awesome ministry," said McRoberts. "The whole purpose of the program is to bring people to God. Inside the church is where you’re going to hear God’s message."
"People without a car have problems getting to work or even holding down a job," he added. "A car opens up job and other opportunities."
The 44-year-old McRoberts was inspired to seek a mission by a close friend who, with his family, sold their possessions and now serve as missionaries in Papua, Indonesia.
"I was looking for something I could do," McRoberts said. Then, the light came to him. "I fix cars."
The way the process works is that people donate their old, junked vehicles to a church, and they get a tax write-off while the church gets the vehicle’s title. The church sends the vehicles to Hart Auto Body, where workers perform under-the-hood repairs. About 39 percent of the vehicles are painted, too. Other vehicles donated are used for parts.
People who want to be considered for a Wheels of Hope vehicle must fill out and submit an application to a participating church. The church then matches vehicles to applicants’ needs.
The program has been very popular. To date, Wheels of Hope has repaired 42 vehicles for people in need. One church has more than a dozen people on a waiting list.
"It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out," said Melanie McRoberts, Scott’s wife. "If the person selected is a contractor, he’ll receive a pickup truck. If it’s a large family, they’ll get a minivan."
Each church determines the price the recipient pays for the car, typically a nominal fee depending on the type of vehicle. The money goes into a fund to help fix other cars.
One church asks recipients to pay $400 to $500 for a car. Unsalvageable cars are sold for scrap, with those funds going toward vehicle repair.