Providing Transportation, Changing Lives
SHIFT Garage provides reliable transportation to those living in poverty — a mission accomplished through the repair of existing vehicles and by placing donated vehicles with families and individuals in need. A recent grant from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation helped the nonprofit open a second location in Sioux Falls.
Joe Smith is really passionate about two things: the Bible and cars.
So a number of years ago, the ordained minister worked with a church in Rapid City to help launch a volunteer program that helped people in need of car repairs.
“I really like helping people and I really like working on cars, so it seemed like a great fit,” Joe said.
From there, Smith went on to found SHIFT GARAGE, a nonprofit that provides reliable transportation to those living in poverty — a mission accomplished through the repair of existing vehicles and by placing donated vehicles with families and individuals in need.
Recently, Smith opened a second SHIFT location in Sioux Falls, thanks in part to a grant from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.
“We’re about getting people to their next stop in life, and more often than not, you need a car to get there,” Smith said. “Our clients are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, so when their car has an issue, they can find themselves in a tough spot pretty quickly,” Smith said. “Most of our clients can’t even afford a diagnosis to determine what’s wrong, let alone pay for the repairs.”
SHIFT offers a free diagnosis and recruits an army of volunteers to execute the repairs. The work is provided for the cost of parts alone, but in exchange, clients must agree to a few conditions.
They must be willing to participate in car maintenance training that will provide them with skills and experience to handle future vehicle issues, should they arise. And, they need to participate in budgeting classes to build money management skills for the future.
SHIFT also accepts donated cars, which are then placed with individuals and families in need.
“We’re not trying to compete with other garages in town, we just want to help people in need by giving them hope,” he said, recalling a story about a single mother who recently turned to SHIFT for help with a vehicle repair.
“She had left an abusive relationship and was without a car. She was borrowing rides from a friend to get herself to work and her child to daycare. We could really see how a car would improve her situation,” he said. “With a car, she could access a better and more cost efficient daycare and she could work additional hours to improve her financial situation. With the extra money she earned, she could afford to move into a better home.”
So SHIFT gave the woman a car. And from there, they watched her situation improve.
“She worked the plan. Her efforts at work paid off and she ended up getting an even better job. In some people’s lives, a car really does make all the difference,” he said.
While the Sioux Falls location is still new, Smith points to statistics from the Rapid City location to show the impact SHIFT can have. There, SHIFT fixes about 150 cars each year while placing 25-30 donated cars with individuals and families in need.
‘Such a Blessing’
Smith said the grant from the Community Foundation was a game-changer for SHIFT Garage.
“Last year was so tough, as it was for all nonprofits, so the grant from the Community Foundation was such a blessing,” he said. “We’re trying to give people hope by improving their transportation and financial situations.”
With this grant, the Community Foundation gave us hope. They listened to our idea, saw the potential, and offered their support. The Foundation helped us so now we can help more people.— Joe Smith, Founder of SHIFT Garage
“Here at the Foundation, we believe we need to open the door wider for transformational ideas like SHIFT Garage to move from dream to reality,” said Patrick Gale, vice president of Community Investment. “Access to reliable transportation is a major issue facing thousands of individuals and families throughout our area, so if there’s a way we can help eliminate obstacles and break down barriers for those who simply need a way to get to their next stop in life, we want to support that.”
“We’re grateful to the many donors who support our Community Fund, the endowment behind our community grantmaking initiatives, and we’re proud of the good work SHIFT Garage is doing to help strengthen the community we all call home,” he said.