Hands Automotive refocuses and fine-tunes mission to help women in need
Golden, Colo.—Back in 2011, Parts & People ran a story about a nonprofit, Hands of The Carpenter (“Hands”), operating its own repair shop named Hands Automotive. The shop’s goal was to establish a social enterprise repair facility that would make it possible to serve more women in need by solving and preventing vehicle crisis issues. Since that time, the nonprofit has grown, refocused, and fine-tuned its mission with a few notable developments.
“We’ve now purchased our own location in Golden and are using a strong network of partners we call Good Neighbor Garage Partners, who assist monthly in repairs — parts and service — and help promote and take in vehicle donations,” said Dan Georgopulos, founder of Hands Automotive, a NAPA AutoCare Center. “We also started a program using volunteers on the evenings and weekends to maximize our use of the capacity of the shop and aim to grow both the partnerships and volunteers in 2018 and beyond.”
As a self-proclaimed “non-automotive guy,” Georgopulos said that learning how to be a first-time owner of an auto repair shop was “interesting at best,” but they received assistance from the aftermarket community. The repair shop’s work is approximately 75 percent non-profit.
In 2016, Hands of The Carpenter acquired a non-profit vehicle donation program called Good Neighbor Garage, which accepted donations to refurbish them — or scrap them when necessary — and gave them to people in need or auctioned them to the public.
“Serving women in need is the entire reason our organization exists,” Georgopulos said. “Car repair, placing cars, educating women about their cars and how to maintain them just happens to be what we’re doing to accomplish our goal, because not many others are doing it.”
The Good Neighbor Garage program is now integrated into Hands Automotive’s vehicle donation program. All of the cars, for example, on the shop’s lot are donations.
“We’re figuring out how to be the best stewards of those vehicles, whether it’s fixing them or otherwise. Our goal is to be done with public vehicle service and repair and be fully functioning on vehicle donations. In order to do that, we’re growing the car-donation side, which is about 400 a year that we’re presently taking in.”
Good Neighbor Garage Partners includes a network of 10 shops such as Pickering Automotive and Eagle Automotive, who offer repairs and help Hands Automotive solicit vehicles from their customers.
“NAPA is also a huge part of what we do. Most of the repairs that are done at the other shops are made possible through parts contributed by NAPA, as well as Mountain Auto Parts in Evergreen, among others,” he said. “Arrowhead Autosport, in Parker, has also recently committed to donating 20-30 cars this year — these are cars that don’t quite fit on our lot, but can be life-changing for a woman in need. All these partners are helping make our mission possible. We hope to get a tire and battery supplier on board, too, to help us lower the costs of repairs and not have to rely on public repair work.”
Automotive shops and stores interested in being part of the Good Neighbor Garage Partners program can contact Georgopulos directly at 303-526-4488 ext. 103.
“It’s great to work with so many shops who want to help. We can also help them identify who is really in need by meeting individually with all the women we can potentially serve and then we determine how we’re going to help them if they qualify — either at our location or at a partner shop.”
Candidates are first qualified through a call center and an online application. Once that filtering process takes place, potential clients are met with individually at Hands Automotive’s non-profit offices, located onsite above its shop, where it’s determined whether their car is a good fit to be worked on, or too old, and if their personal situation qualifies, such as if they are single women without a financial net. They can be “one-car” owners or “no-car” owners, Georgopulos said.
“We can either repair their car or get one to them, as long as they demonstrate an ability to have a car, like having a job, going to school or working with other programs toward economic self-sufficiency. Everyone would like a car, but not everyone can afford one — that’s our goal.”
New location with amenities
The new location in Golden had been three previous automotive businesses, including a used car dealership, a tire business, and a small auto repair shop. The second floor had been leased as a residence.
“We’re grateful to be here compared to our previous location at Colfax Avenue and Kendall Street — this is just a treat,” Georgopulos said.
It was a quick move in a short amount of time.
“The landlords of our first location decided to sell, so we had to quickly figure out what to do. In January 2017, when we were told we had to move, we weren’t prepared for it, but through some fundraising, a long-term bank note, and investors who wanted to support and invest in our cause through donations and low-interest loans, we did it. It was an extraordinary experience and it worked out perfectly.”
The entire process allowed Hands Automotive to be an owner in May 2017 and begin upgrading the facility once they relocated two months later. The non-profit offices had to wait to be relocated until they negotiated with the residents on the second level, he said.
“We had been in two separate locations — the shop and non-profit offices — in our previously leased spaces, and it was part of our dream for many years to be together. Most shops don’t have the space to operate like we can.”
Not surprisingly, the second floor has the feel of a former residence, though it’s been customized into offices and client reception areas by an interior decorator who donated their time and new furniture.
“We’ve made it a comfortable place for the women we serve.”