Non-profit repair shop provides service for single mothers, widows

April 3, 2018
Located in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, God's Garage only “repairs vehicles for single mothers, widows and wives of deployed military with no labor costs,” explains Chris “PC” Williams, founder of this philanthropy.

Full disclosure: this shop doesn’t make any money. Not one red cent. Not due to any mismanagement — quite the opposite — but because it’s a non-profit, faith-based endeavor called God’s Garage. 

At a Glance:
God's Garage
Conroe, TX
No. of shops
Chris "PC" Williams
Years in business
Square footage of shop
Annual gross revenue

Located in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, it only “repairs vehicles for single mothers, widows and wives of deployed military with no labor costs,” explains Chris “PC” Williams, founder of this philanthropy. “We also give vehicles away to qualified recipients. Through donated cars and parts, we are able to bridge troubled times in so many people’s lives.”

Since no one actually owns the garage, Williams is the president, just as there are no employees but volunteers. “Our group consists of lead technicians through those just learning the automotive trade,” he explains. “I actually started this thing about six years ago, just a group of guys who got together once every couple of months to help people out.” 

Automotive service and assisting those in need have long been linked in Williams’ family, starting with his dad. “My father was a helper,” he says. “We would be all dressed up to go somewhere and if he saw someone stuck on the side of the road, we would pull over and help them out.

Chris “PC” Williams

“My dad was always into cars, motorcycles, boats, basically anything that had a motor and could go fast,” laughs Williams. “He even went to tech school to become a mechanic. He ended up becoming a pastor, but was still wrenching on cars and helping people whenever he could.” 

While Williams eventually followed his father into the ministry as a youth pastor (PC = Pastor Chris), he didn’t pick up his father’s aptitude for mechanics. “I can’t stand working on cars,” he confides. “I wasn’t the best student, but he taught me the basics of car care.”   

His father’s lessons dramatically came together one rainy night when Williams was driving home from church. “I could barely make out in my headlights a couple people walking on the side of the road. I pulled over, and I didn’t know if they’d get in the truck with me, but it turned out it was a lady from my church and her little girl.”

Taking them home, Williams learned that for three months this single mom had been begging or borrowing rides to get to work and church, sometimes even hitchhiking, since her truck was in the shop and she couldn’t afford to pay for it.  

“That night I went home to my wife and I cried,” says Williams. “I told her this can’t happen when I can do something about it. I’ve got friends who’ve got a couple extra dollars, friends who can work on cars; we’ve got to do something, we can’t just let this happen.”

After helping this woman out of her predicament, Williams began calling people in earnest. “I’m a networker and I’ve been blessed to know a lot of people,” he declares. “I just started spreading the word around to my friends, and before you know it we had a dozen guys showing up, and it grew from there.” 

For his part Williams built a small shop on his property, but since there’s no shortage of clientele, the work quickly eclipsed this 40’x40’ facility. “We really needed to go three to four nights a week and I couldn’t do that in my neighborhood,” Williams relates. “I found a 3,500 square foot building with some storage in the back, but it was a pretty large lease so I told the guy I couldn’t do it.”

But it turned out the owner had heard of God’s Garage and planned to volunteer. He offered the building to Williams at the cost of the mortgage note. “It was over $1,000 less a month, so we jumped in.” God’s Garage now had an official address.

“We’ve built the place out,” Williams proudly notes. “We’ve got three lifts right now, looking forward to getting an alignment rack when we get enough pennies saved. We’ve got five or six guys during the day every day, a dozen more two or three nights a week. We’ve got retirees, shift workers, firemen, airline pilots; three of my mechanics are full time master techs, and they bring their scanners with them as well.

“(The volunteers) just come in, grab a work order, pick what they want to do and get after it,” Williams continues. “It’s amazing to me, I’m in awe. Just about every day I look around at the people everywhere, and these guys don’t just give time, they all give financially: $10, $20, $100 a month to go towards doing what we’re doing so we can buy more parts.” 

Then there are the giveaway cars. “If we have a donated car with the potential of being a giveaway, we want to make sure that it’s safe and reliable,” reports Williams. “They usually have mileage of 180,000-200,000 and up, but they’re going to be a good solid runner and our goal is to get them a year to two years down the road so that the families who get them are in a better place.” 

Applications for these cars can be filled out on their website, Williams explains. “I get 30 or more applications a day right now, and the waiting list is getting longer. We have a vetting team that will call them, spend some time with them. They check their references to try to make sure that the need is real. Some people think that this is a giant organization, but we don’t have money; we’re paying to do this.” 

One requirement is that recipients take a budgeting class. “Our teachers push hard to give them skills that they need not only to budget, but to overcome obstacles,” Williams says. “Listen, I don’t care what church you go to, I don’t care if you go to church or don’t go to church; we just want to hang out, have some fun, and do some good for other people. (Because) it’s not just giving a car to somebody, it’s a life-changing event, and that’s so humbling, so amazing to be a part of.”

About the Author

Robert Bravender

Robert Bravender graduated from the University of Memphis (TN) with a bachelor's degree in film and video production. Now working at Masters TV, he produces Motorhead Garage with longtime how-to guys Sam Memmolo and Dave Bowman. Bravender has edited a magazine for the National Muscle Car Association, a member-based race organization, which in turn lead to producing TV shows for ESPN, the Outdoor Life Network and Speedvision. He has produced shows ranging from the Mothers Polish Car Show Series to sport compact racing to Street Rodder TV.

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