First Baptist, Naples-area repair shops team up for car-care clinic for needy

Auto repairs and preventative maintenance

Auto repairs and preventative maintenance

A carburetor assembly from an electric generator is taken apart by a mechanic. If left to set in engines for long periods of time, ethanol-added gasoline can corrode parts of the engine causing seals to deteriorate and fuel injector jets to become clogged. Since generators are mainly used in case of emergency, many owners won't discover they have an issue with ethanol-added gasoline until they might be depending on the device. David Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

A carburetor assembly from an electric generator is taken apart by a mechanic. If left to set in engines for long periods of time, ethanol-added gasoline can corrode parts of the engine causing seals to deteriorate and fuel injector jets to become clogged. Since generators are mainly used in case of emergency, many owners won't discover they have an issue with ethanol-added gasoline until they might be depending on the device. David Albers/Staff

— Some people go to church for a prayer, some for an oil change.

Hundreds of people will line up for both on Saturday, March 23, at First Baptist Church of Naples.

The Car Care Ministry event is a collaboration of more than 30 Southwest Florida businesses and the church, providing auto maintenance to people who are struggling to afford it. Registration by Sunday is required.

Sheldon Wise, director of fixed operations at Tamiami Ford in Naples, is happy to have found a place to volunteer his talents.

“My dad’s a minister, and growing up we did all sorts of things to serve our community, but nothing like this. This is one place I can put my skills, contacts and knowledge to do something for the community,” Wise said.

More than 300 volunteers, about half from the church and the other half from local businesses, get together to service more than 200 cars.

“It’s unheard of to change the oil for more than 200 cars in four hours’ time,” said Rod Foster, the Bonita Springs resident who founded the event.

The North Naples church parking lot is turned into 20 automotive stations with three technicians on each, servicing 20 cars per half-hour, Foster said.

Six or seven years ago when Foster started the Car Care Ministry, about 25 cars were serviced in the day. The outpouring of support from businesses, Lorenzo Walker technical school in East Naples and Immokalee High School’s automotive program helped grow the event to twice each year.

People must register ahead of time for Car Care, held 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 23, at First Baptist Church of Naples, 3000 Orange Blossom Drive. Registration is available through social agencies in Collier County, or on the website, www.fbcn.org/carcare, until Sunday.

Many of the people seeking the assistance are women, particularly single moms and seniors, Foster said.

“The first thing I enjoy doing is asking the ladies about their cars. The second is asking for their prayer request,” Foster said.

The volunteers come from a variety of faiths and nonreligious backgrounds. Time and supplies are donated by auto dealerships, repair shops, auto parts stores and other businesses. They work together to change oil, check tires, top off fluids, test batteries and replace windshield wipers. Meanwhile, youth volunteers wash the cars once the service is complete. Printouts of the work are provided to each car owner.

“One of the things put on my heart was that we were helping people in our church but we weren’t helping people in the community. That’s the way we need to be. Get to people that maybe feel the church doesn’t love them so much and show them we do,” Foster said.

It’s not just about saving people money or even praying for resolution of their hardships — it’s also a huge safety issue, mechanics who volunteer at the event say.

Foster recalled a previous event where a grandmother, who had custody of her two grandchildren, came in with a car with doors that couldn’t open from the inside. The windows didn’t open either.

“They would have to beat on their windows from the inside and wait for someone from the outside to open the door for them,” Foster recalled.

Collex Collision wasn’t able to fix everything in that car, but made sure the family could operate the doors from the inside.

Foster described volunteer Dave Lobdell, of Complete Automotive in Naples, as a businessman and a “warrior,” who gave beyond the scope of the event.

“Pastor Hayes Wicker (of First Baptist Church) always talks about using the skills you have to serve. I can help make these cars safe for people who can’t afford to maintain their cars and can’t afford not to,” Lobdell said.

He finds it gratifying to see so many people from the Naples business community coming together.

“What I’ve found is that there are a lot of guys, a lot of businesses, willing to give back and they have so much fun they want to know how they can do more It’s a good thing to get hooked on,” Lobdell said.

Many of the volunteers are certified mechanics, such as Lobdell, checking the operation of lights and other safety parts, while students from the vo-tech schools use their equipment to recharge as many air-conditioning units as they can.

Workers learn that some families are living in their cars, Foster said.

“It’s a part of Naples we don’t often see. We have all these beautiful homes and beautiful cars. There are people struggling right now, and on the 23rd, that’s the type of person you see and they’re so grateful,” Foster said.

Support comes from national companies like Carfax.com, which allows the Car Care Ministry to use its database for parts and engine-size searches. Some donated parts come from as far away as California. Advance Auto donates parts, often making trips back to the store on Pine Ridge Road if any unforeseen needs come up during the event, Foster said.

The 200 cars require about four 55-gallon drums of oil. Naples Nissan and Tamiami Ford each donate one full drum among other parts and services.

People must register ahead of time for Car Care, held 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 23, at First Baptist Church of Naples, 3000 Orange Blossom Drive. Registration is available through social agencies in Collier County, or on the website, www.fbcn.org/carcare, until Sunday.

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