What better time to grant someone’s wishes than during the holiday season? Try all year ‘round.
This is exactly what AJ’s Auto Repairs, an auto shop located at 1858 13th St. SE., does through their Wheels and Wishes program.
According to Bob Anderson, AJ’s Auto Repair owner, the program has been running, rather informally, for about eight to nine years now with the aim of helping deserving individuals in dire need of cars.
One lucky beneficiary of the Wheels and Wishes program is Carmen Garcia, a Salem woman who worked as a house cleaner for several clients with locations ranging from Keizer to Silverton. Garcia has often relied on her 1987 Toyota Camry to get to work. The problem is that the car had become a stubborn and unreliable machine after a particularly damaging accident. Among the many things it needed were a new transmission, and even a new engine. What is worse is that it would often simply refuse to run. This caused quite a panic for Garcia who was in great need of transportation during the holiday season.
Luckily for the befuddled house cleaner, it all changed one Friday morning. Garcia was presented by AJ’s Auto Repair mechanics with a newly-repaired 2002 Chevy Cavalier as a complimentary vehicle via the shop’s donation program—the aforementioned Wheels and Wishes.
According to Anderson, “There will be three, four, five cars a year that we donate.”He further adds that “We even have a few cars here; we’re just waiting to hear about people who need them.”
Anderson stated that the shop will sometimes hear about families in need through the newspaper. Mostly, though, they prefer to have deserving individuals who were nominated by others. This was the case for Garcia as the shop received an email from a customer named Sandy DeLuna, who had previously heard about Garcia’s car woes and thought that the mechanics at AJ’s Auto Repair might be able to help.
In the email, Deluna wrote that “Carmen is a very good and reliable person who gets to her jobs, whether her car works or not,” She then goes on to ask that “If you could help Carmen, it would be such a relief to her, and I know she would be so appreciative.”
It was then that AJ’s Auto Repair reached out. Initially, Anderson and his team thought of fixing up her old car. “We had her car towed down here and looked at it,” But after a thorough assessment, Anderson thought otherwise, saying “But really, it was not in her best interest to try and fix it.”
It was then that they offered Garcia the pick of three cars which were waiting for new owners instead. “That quick turnaround is really the best way to do it,” said Anderson. “People really need a car now when they fall on hard times. We structure the cars so they’re safe and dependable; some cars just don’t fit in the program.”
So how did Garcia enjoy her new ride? She thanked Anderson and shook each of the mechanics’ hands, waved goodbye, and drove straight to work.