Autocare Haven: How a neighbor’s nonprofit pumps the brakes during expensive car repairs
Photograph courtesy of Manuel Tellez.
Manuel Tellez was working to make ends meet when he moved to Dallas in 2006. It was a daunting task with an unreliable financial pit of a vehicle. The brake pads had to be replaced. Then all the parts of its cooling system broke. With no one to turn to for help, he turned to a payday lender.
“I got stuck in this debt trap for a while, but ended up getting out of it after paying several thousand dollars in interest,” he says. “Every time I went back to the payday lender, I ran into people who were there to get loans or renew loans to pay bills. The most common bill I have heard has to do with auto repairs. There was no organization to help people in this area. There was a need.
In 2019, Tellez founded Autocare Haven, a non-profit organization that provides free car repairs to motorists in North Texas who don’t have the necessary funds. Applicants must present a driver’s license, proof of residency, proof of income and have at least the minimum auto insurance coverage. Then, a mechanic diagnoses the problem and determines if it can be repaired.
The organization will not restore a totalized car or repair an aesthetic scratch on the bumper, but it will replace parts essential to the functioning of a car. Autocare Haven supplied a new battery, changed a tire and aligned the tires. When a woman needed new brake pads, the nonprofit paid to have them replaced. The repair allowed her to get back on the road as a delivery driver for Grubhub and save enough money to rent her own apartment.
“We appreciate that everyone has their own vehicle in this country,” Tellez says. “It’s good to have that independence, but if you live paycheck after paycheck and don’t have any savings or a credit card, you’re on the brink of disaster.”
The average auto repair in Texas costs around $ 386, but 44% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $ 400 expense, according to a Federal Reserve study.
Autocare Haven collects donations from the community through multiple platforms, such as PayPal, Zelle, or Venmo, and pays trained mechanics to perform repairs at no cost to customers. He raised hundreds of dollars through GoFundMe and a Facebook donation campaign that coincided with North Texas Giving Day.
Board members would like to expand the program, but to do so they need more funds. Fundraising efforts slowed down last year, when struggling nonprofits asked for limited donations.
The organization has received a boost through a partnership with Amazon. Every few months, the retailer donates automotive fluids, such as engine oil and antifreeze, in boxes that have been damaged in transit. So far, Amazon has donated over 450 pounds of automotive fluid.
“I work to organize the donations,” says Tyler Wear, board member. “Considering my interest in cars, I thought this would be something I would be in a good position to help. People need a vehicle here. We don’t have public transit or transit like so many other big cities. There are so many parts of the city that are only accessible by car. It is a necessity.
The organization serves the counties of Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Rockwall.
“Many affordable neighborhoods are undergoing gentrification and people are moving further afield where DART opportunities are rarer,” says Lauren Ortega, board member. “In some areas it is 8 km or more from a grocery store, bank or library. It’s an hour on a bus. Who has this time? Parents need reliable transportation for their children or to be able to help an elderly person. Maybe they just want to get to work. Each of us could have car trouble at any time. “
For more information, visit autocarehaven.org.
Ways to donate:
- PayPal: paypal.me/AutocareHaven
- Facebook: facebook.com/AutocareHaven
- Cash application: $ AutocareHaven
- Venmo: @autocarehaven
- Zelle: [email protected]