Chris Williams opened up a free auto repair shop to help single women, widows and military wives because he'd heard about dishonest car dealers and repair shops trying to take advantage of these women in need.
A former pastor, PC "Pastor Chris" Williams has been helping out women by repairing their automobiles for free. The Texas-based God’s Garage owner offers these services to single women, widows and military wives who cannot afford to repair their vehicles otherwise. He told PEOPLE about an incident that sparked an idea in his mind. Six years ago, Williams recalls the time he was on his way home from church when he spotted a mother and her child (who turned out to be from his congregation) walking in the rain along the side of busy Highway 105.
The former pastor from Montgomery, Texas, pulled over his car and offered them a ride home. When he asked them why they were on foot during this dismal evening, she informed him that they couldn't afford to get their car out of the shop. Recollecting this event 49-year-old Williams who now resides in Conroe, Texas, said, "They told me that their car had been in the shop for months and they couldn’t afford to get it out. Right then, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to get my dream of opening a free garage off the ground."
Soon after this incident, the former children's pastor borrowed money and because it wasn't enough he began campaigning for donations. Several months later, he opened up "God's Garage" a non-profit auto repair service which helps women who cannot afford to repair their vehicle otherwise. His shop opened its doors in 2012, and since then his team has successfully repaired over 200 cars which charging a penny. They have also given away more than 100 restored vehicles to women who needed it the most.
Sharing his own experience Williams said, "I know what it’s like to be short on money and long on car troubles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed that my car would start in the morning so I could get to work." While he takes great pleasure in supporting people in need, he confesses that working on cars is his least favorite thing. Now married with two young daughters, he told People about his father. " My dad went to tech school to become a mechanic before he became a pastor, and I followed him into the pastor side of things but didn’t know much about cars," he said.
Crediting his father for all the knowledge he possesses about cars he said, "My dad taught me the basics of car care, and I grew up watching him help people stuck on the side of the road," whilst adding, "As I grew older, I kept telling myself, 'When I’m in the right position, I’m going to help people.' So when I saw this need in my community, I decided the solution was to surround myself with guys who know more about fixing cars than I do. Together, we’re making it happen at God’s Garage." His choice to help women was influenced by the horrifying news he had been hearing about dishonest car dealers who ran repair shops and tried to take advantage of widows and single moms.
He confessed that there are people out there who would still "prey upon just about anyone." He said, "Also, car repairs are so expensive, and where I live, it’s rural. So if you don’t have a car, you can’t get a job. And if you don’t have a job, you can’t buy a car. It’s a cruel dilemma to be in." Every day around 10 volunteers would arrive at the garage to share dinner while helping them repair cars using the parts that are usually purchased with the donations or are given away by any local automobile shop.
One of the volunteers, Harvey Yaws told PEOPLE, "There’s no greater joy than seeing a mom finally be able to start her car up and drive it home." The 67-year-old continued, "And when people donate their old cars and we fix them up and give them away, there’s a feeling that’s unbelievable. The people are so grateful — their emotion always brings tears of happiness." They also surprised 25-year-old single mom Shelby Grimet with a renovated Honda 2004 CRV who couldn't thank them enough. "It was hard to get a job because I had no way to get there," said the mother of a 5-year-old. "There's no way that I could have afforded to buy a car of any kind. It would take forever to get anywhere on the bus."
Thanks to God's Garage, now Grimet has a job at a children’s museum and can take her son out anytime she wishes to. "God’s Garage has given us freedom and has taken away a lot of our stress. Every day, they’re changing people’s lives. They’ve certainly changed mine," she added. The overwhelming joy people like Grimet express is what drives Williams and his volunteers to stay up late at nights fixing cars.
The former pastor shares one such incident where they had provided a town car to a mother-of-three but was disappointed that he and his crew were unable to find her something more compact and attractive. "It was a huge boat of a car," he said. But he was in for a touching surprise. He added, "And as I handed over the keys, one of her little girls started crying and reached up and grabbed hold of my shirt. 'Do you know what this means?' she told me. 'It means that I can go to the store, and mama can take me to school and the doctor.' It was such an amazing and touching experience. I had to keep wiping my eyes that night," he concluded.