Every month, NHMagazine.com highlights events and causes worthy of time and philanthropic treasure in their Good Cause of the Month series.
The first Good Cause of 2018, features Good News Garage, which was founded in Burlington, Vermont, in 1996 as one of the nation’s first car donation nonprofits. Since their New Hampshire opening in 2002, they have been committed to providing refurbished vehicles for working people in need. The organization has provided nearly 5,000 New England families with vehicles to date. Read on to learn about all of their work and history and to find out how you can get involved.
Good News Garage was founded in Vermont nearly 20 years ago by social activist and Lutheran church member, Hal Colston. After helping a single mother find a new car, Colston decided to start a “community garage” where people struggling to get out of poverty could receive a car that was affordable, safe and reliable. After being recognized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as a “Best of the Best” nonprofit agency, it opened another office in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 2002. At its most simple, Good News Garage’s mission is to provide refurbished vehicles for citizens in need whether that might be a car, van or truck. In addition to their core mission, Regional Marketing Director Susan Swain says that the nonprofit also works to “increase opportunities for our clients by empowering them to move into financial and social stability.”
Along with Swain, the Manchester office is staffed by two vehicle processors, two client coordinators and Director of Operations Bob Buckley. The organization stays busy processing all vehicle donations (including preparing tax letters and paperwork) and working with local families and organizations to place vehicles. “We partner with New Hampshire garages and repair facilities to evaluate and refurbish all vehicles awarded,” says Swain. “The vehicle processors are in regular communication with our partner garages to ensure that all repairs meet our strict standards. Our staff also goes over the vehicle bumper to bumper with the recipient to ensure that they understand how to operate and maintain their vehicle.”
Good News Garage has had measurable impact in providing vehicles to low-income individuals and families in need of transportation like single mother, Ellyn Gaudet. Gaudet was in a transitional phase in her life when she received her car in 2016. She was a single mother to a child with special needs and was returning to school to become a nurse. When her car failed inspection, she was left without transportation. As a participant in the New Hampshire Employment Program, Gaudet applied for a vehicle through a caseworker and received a 2002 Toyota Corolla. “My car got me through a crucial time in my life,” she recalls. “Because of my car, I was able to finish school and transition successfully into the working world. It took me from one place in life to another, allowing me to finish my studies and work as a student at a local hospital.” She wanted to pay it forward and recently re-donated her car back to Good News Garage where it will be awarded to another family. “My daughter and I benefited greatly from GNG’s car donation, and it was very gratifying to give the car back for someone else to use,” she says.