A “Garage for Good” owned by two Fox Valley domestic abuse shelters is not only changing the lives of its customers and employees, it is treading new ground in state law.
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs of Appleton and the Christine Ann Center in Oshkosh opened a car repair business and training program called JumpStart, located in Fox Valley Technical College’s J. J. Keller Automotive Building in Grand Chute. The repair shop employs women as mechanics and caters to them as customers, promising trustworthy service and straight answers to questions. Among its customers are domestic abuse victims receiving low-cost or no-cost repairs. The goal is to have one in four customers be a survivor of abuse.
After about a year in business with support from a $75,000 grant from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation, they report progress on their goals. BNGP grants are funded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs from the annual U.S. Venture Open golf outing, with additional money from the J. J. Keller Foundation and other community partners.
A human story speaks to what they are accomplishing.
One domestic abuse survivor brought her car in for repairs. The mechanic replaced a damaged headlight and repaired a hole in the exhaust that was sending carbon monoxide fumes into the backseat area of the car, where the woman’s children sat.
Reaction from the public has been extremely positive. Comments JumpStart received though social media include:
“I can’t even tell you how incredibly awesome I think this idea is. Someone I can trust to tell me the truth?? This is (unfortunately) revolutionary. AND we get to help the women at Harbor House. Genius!”
“Women in motion. Gotta love it!”
“I am so excited to learn about this place. I’m due for an oil change soon, so I’ll be there”
In addition to the social good it does, JumpStart also intends to make money. Its structure turned out to be a challenge for current state law. While both Harbor House and the Christine Ann Center are nonprofits, the repair business is not. It is set up as a limited liability corporation (LLC).
“It is not common practice for two nonprofit organizations to own a for-profit business,” Executive Director Beth Schnorr said. “We continue to work on our messaging and educating our customers to ensure that there is no misunderstanding. We emphasize that proceeds from the business are used to provide low cost/no cost car repairs for the survivors of domestic violence served by our two agencies.”
Jump Start is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For an appointment, call (920) 572-4327.