For individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, prison or poverty, two of the most important ingredients to future career success in the Denver metro area are qualifying for a driver’s license and purchasing a car for transportation. This reality provides the reason behind the creation of the Good Neighbor Garage in 2004.
In communities like Denver where public transportation does not adequately serve outlying areas that provide high-quality entry-level job opportunities in construction, a car means the difference between a well-paying job or a lower-quality day labor position. Traveling by bus or light rail just doesn’t accommodate an industry where job locations frequently change and start-times are often very early. And for individuals with children, their attempts to juggle child-care, schooling, and traveling to a job site without a vehicle becomes nearly impossible.
Marc Veldhuizen, in partnership with Belay Enterprises, started The Good Neighbor Garage as an innovative faith venture that receives donated cars from the public. These vehicles are screened for quality. Those that will provide dependable transportation for at least a year are repaired and placed for a small fee with qualifying individuals needing a car in order to get to work. Other cars that do not fit program needs are auctioned or sold to the public to support car placement program expenses.
In its first year, the Good Neighbor Garage placed around 27 cars with disadvantaged individuals. In 2008, the program is on pace to place 75 cars. When it reaches maturity over the next few years, the Good Neighbor Garage hopes to expand its program services to employ several individuals that are rebuilding lives in an automotive and mechanic training program. As part of Belay Enterprises’ mission of incubating faith ventures into independent ventures, the Good Neighbor Garage was spun off into its own nonprofit organization two years ago.