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‘Garage for Good’ gets better with new location in Neenah

When the latest chapter in the story of the JumpStart program’s Garage for Good was written May 13, it was a surprise ending for only three people — the staff of the nonprofit automotive repair garage that benefits domestic abuse survivors working with Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs in Appleton and the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services in Oshkosh.

A limousine showed up for JumpStart Auto Repair staff members Katie Cross-VanderWeilen and Jenna Bundy (the third, Hannah La Bianca, was busy graduating from Fox Valley Technical College). They were told they were going to the filming of a video segment on JumpStart. Their surprise was that a new location that had been discussed for the repair garage, currently operating at the J. J. Keller Transportation Center on the FVTC campus, actually had been selected, renovated and prepared to open after the deal closes June 1.

“Katie and Jenna were flabbergasted,” Beth Schnorr, Harbor House executive director said.

The new location at 896 S. Commercial St. in Neenah, the former home of Randy’s Auto Service, now sports purple garage doors. Nearby stood about 100 people — and at least one dog — dressed in purple JumpStart t-shirts bearing the message “Spark Change!” Purple is the signature color for domestic abuse survivors.

The move is being accomplished with grants from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership dating back five years and totaling $218,000, plus a $5,000 anonymous gift from a fund within the Community Foundation and a $20,000 grant from the Robert Dohr and Lilas Dohr Charitable Fund within the Community Foundation to help with the downpayment on the new garage. The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs Fund within the Community Foundation, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners. Another $122,000 has come through the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation from the regional grantmaking of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership.

The technical school campus location gave JumpStart a place to start, with expertise nearby. Now it needs more space and more flexibility in its hours and operations.

On Tuesday, the program was named as the recipient of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s “Rising Star” award, given to organizations with a unique blend of vision, energy, perseverance and skill.

Schnorr admitted moving deeper into a commitment to support themselves with a business is a risk for the domestic abuse programs.

“We always think of the risks survivors take everyday,” she said.

The Canadian nonprofit Me to We Foundation had a video crew on hand to capture the day. The footage will be released at a later date when the editing is completed. Its mission is empowering other nonprofits to drive sustainable change, including social innovation — creative solutions in which nonprofits offer a service or product to produce ongoing revenues, to add to donations and grants. Me to We founders Marc and Craig Kielburger  were catalysts for the event, which led to an anonymous donor to come forward and also help with the down payment.

Schnorr sees social innovation as very important for the future stability of nonprofits.

“We’ve got to build these opportunities,” she said.

The JumpStart program is providing revenue to support the two domestic abuse programs, providing auto mechanic jobs for women and offering free or reduced-cost car repairs for domestic abuse survivors.

“The minimum goal is to provide car repairs for survivors,” Schnorr said. “It is key to their ability to get on road to economic independence.”

The Garage for Good takes the time to explain the repairs to its mostly women customers and offers a friendly, non-threatening environment.

“It’s also about redefining the whole automotive repair business experience for women,” Schnorr said.

To make an appointment with JumpStart Auto Repair on a Friday or Saturday, call Katie at 920-572-4327  or go to

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