mechanic working on a car
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
June 4, 2024 ·  4 min read

A mechanic opened a restaurant. On his days off, he fixes junk cars and gives them to people in need.

Eliot Middleton’s father was a mechanic and, as a child, Eliot would watch him fix cars for people. At 38, Middleton owns a restaurant and his father had passed away. Hopefully, he keeps his memory alive by fixing junk cars and giving them to people in need. Public transportation isn’t well-established where he lives in South Carolina, so cars are essential. [1] He trades the broken-down vehicles with a plate of ribs from his restaurant, Middleton’s Village BBQ. Additionally, he started a GoFundMe to support his repairing of vehicles for those who need them.

You don’t have a car, you don’t have a career,” Middleton explained. “How will people who have no reliable buses, no Ubers, travel to the city, where they would be able to find bigger jobs at the port authorities or manufacturing centers? They can’t walk 40, 50, 60 miles to great jobs — they have to settle for small-end jobs that pay well below what they need to survive.” [2]

Fixing Cars For Those In Need

Middleton turned this good deed into a nonprofit organization called Middl’eton’s Village to Village Foundation. On their Facebook page, they explain, “We repair donated cars to donate to families in rural South Carolina that are in need!”

By July 2021, he has collected about 100 cars and donated them to 33 members of his community — all for free. “Giving someone a car can change all that, and it does change all that,” he said. “I want to help everybody looking to better themselves when transportation is what’s holding them back.”

He decided to transform junk cars into working vehicles for people in November 2019. At that time, he had arranged a food drive that gave away 250 boxes of food from his restaurant. When he ran out of boxes, he walked outside and saw that the line was still two blocks long.

That’s when I noticed most of those people just started walking back to the other side of town,” he said. “I caught up with some of them and found out they had walked three or four miles to get there to receive food, but couldn’t make it in time because they had no cars and they had to walk. I was very distraught to see that. That was the turning point in my life when I made the decision to actively give my time and skills to give back to my community.”

A Mechanic, Just Like His Father 

Additionally, fixing cars is an especially personal activity for Middleton because of the memories with his father. In fact, when his father passed away in February 2020, he was turning his business from a food truck into a restaurant. At the same time, the United States was about to go into lockdown because of the pandemic. He didn’t have time to grieve. Instead, he threw himself into his restaurant, arranging deliveries, drive-through, and curbside pickup to stay in business.

The wounds from losing his father remained. But they began to heal in September 2020 — the same time he began to fix cars for those in need. “I like working on cars with a lot of problems because that’s my time to relate to my father, speak with him, because that’s what we’ve always done together,” he said. “It makes me feel like he’s right there. It’s helping me as much as it’s helping the people, I give the cars to because this is allowing me to cope with the fact that my dad’s not here anymore.”

Turning to The Community

Middleton estimates he has accomplished about $48,000 of mechanic work. These expenses are covered by fundraising or his own money. His team grew with his friend Mike Jennings, also a mechanic fixing cars, while his sister, Author Dee, upkeeps their social media and the many donations and requests emailed to the organization.

And when Jennings fell upon hard times due to the pandemic, Middleton fixed his car and hired him as a permanent staff member of Middleton’s Village to Village Foundation. “I was so shocked, I never expected it,” Jennings said. “It was very touching for Eliot to think of me too. It really meant so much to me. I didn’t have to worry about how to get to work or rely on people anymore. I was really struggling and he helped ease that so much.”

A lot of people turn to their pastors or psychiatrists to open up about their situations, but others turn to their communities,” Eliot said. “That’s what I’m here for, to always be here for my community whether it’s for advice or to talk or fix up cars for them. I’ll always be taking care of my people.” [3]

To donate a vehicle or money, send an email to [email protected]. To send a story of someone in need of a vehicle, email [email protected]

Keep Reading: College Isn’t For Every Young Adult–And It’s Time Parents Accept It

Sources

  1. “Hundreds offer to donate cars to South Carolina mechanic who fixes them for those in need.” CBS News. Mark Strassmann. July 15, 2021
  2. In His Spare Time, This South Carolina Restaurant Owner Fixes Up Old Cars to Donate Them to People in Need.Yahoo. Meghan Overdeep. July 15, 2021
  3. “This restaurant owner spends his free time fixing old cars and donating them to people in need.” CNN. Alaa Elassar. July 11, 2021