Foundation gives gift of auto leases, repairs to single moms, needy families

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5 2012 9:30 p.m. MST

The business employs seven people and has enabled DeWaal and his wife, Vickie, to raise a family and send their children to college. On occasion over the years, LDS Church leaders have sent people to DeWaal for help.

But there was something about DeWaal's encounter with a single mother whose car needed repairs and she could not make ends meet to pay for it. 

"I thought, 'Somebody's got to step up. Somebody's got to help,'" DeWaal said. "One day, I had the feeling I had to do more." 

The answer was the Cars That Care Foundation. A friend who is an attorney offered free legal services to help DeWaal set up the foundation.

Seemingly, when DeWaal has needed assistance launching the effort, people have stepped forward to help, he said. 

"I've really had a strong feeling this was something the Lord wanted me to do," he said.

The NAPA Auto Parts store in Bountiful donates $500 a month in auto parts. It has also helped sponsor a billboard that advertises the foundation. DeWaal is on the hunt for other corporate sponsors for the foundation, which is tax-exempt, nonprofit and has a 501c3 application pending with the Internal Revenue Service. 

While the foundation leases cars, most of its work involves repairing vehicles. As Ellie Mitchell's husband, Grant, endured frontotemporal degeneration for a decade with his final years spent in in a nursing home, Mitchell found herself with no money to pay a costly car repair.

The Cars That Care Foundation lent a hand, which Mitchell said was difficult, at first, to accept.

She had been a successful dress designer. Her husband had been a successful realtor in Florida, but he lost his business. And then he lost his health. The couple moved to Utah to be near her husband's family.

"I cried a lot of tears. I was becoming a charity case," she said.

While it was initially humbling to accept help, Mitchell said the gift of the foundation's auto repairs changed her perspective.

"We're all brothers and sisters. One day, any one of us could become needy," she said.

The foundation recently helped Angela Garner when her car needed brake repairs.

"My ex hasn't paid child support since July," Garner said. "I'm maxed out on payday loans. I clean houses for living. I have to have a car every day."

She called DeWaal "a good guy."

"You kind of have to take a step back," Garner said. "You don't run into many people who are like him. You kind of wonder if it's for real."

The gift of leased cars has helped clients of Safe Harbor regain their independence and take better care of their families, said program manager Kelsie Strong.

"It's amazing. I'm overwhelmed by (DeWaal's) kindness. It's something this county has needed for so long," Strong said.

But DeWaal can't shoulder the foundation on his own, she said. Strong called on members of the community to donate vehicles or cash to support the foundation's efforts.

DeWaal said the foundation can accept any car that has a title or once had a title, regardless whether the car runs. A junked car can be sold for cash, which also helps the foundation.

"We're a very small business. There's no way I can fund it, really," DeWaal said.

But the list of people who need help is long. While Wednesday felt a little bit like Christmas at the garage, needs are outstripping the foundation's resources, he said.

"For all the happy girls I have here today, I have a drawer full of applications from some very sad girls waiting for help," he said.

For information on how to give, visit www.carsthatcare.net, call 801-294-4060 or send tax deductible contributions to Cars That Care Foundation, 423 N. 800 West, West Bountiful, UT 84087.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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