MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The good people at Dorothy Day House of Hospitality help homeless families stay united while pushing life's restart button. They come to the doors of the ministry having lost their homes and often, their cars.
"The lack of transportation is a major problem for most of our families. It is very hard to find employment when you have to rely on the bus to get to work. A car changes everything," said Sister Maureen Griner, founder and executive director of the homeless shelter now growing at a quickening pace.
Sister Maureen's generous spirit has inspired all kinds of giving, including people who wish to donate their car so that a struggling family can drive to the entrance ramp of the comeback trail.
A South Bluffs neighbor told a new Memphian about the need at Dorothy Day House. "I was hoping to donate my car to Salvation Army or a similar charity, as I work from home and don't often need a car," said Hillary Kett, a recent transplant from Chicago.
Ms. Kett sent her 2002 Toyota Prius 4 door sedan to the driveway of Dorothy Day House at 1429 Poplar Ave. this week.
"We will give the car to one of our families when they can pay for the tags and insurance. It may be a current family or a former family that is still struggling with transportation," said Sister Maureen.
Ms. Kett's Prius needed a little work: new tires, a new battery and an oil change. The guys at Barton's Car Care service countless Midtown vehicles, including the ones driven at Dorothy Day House.
"I love Sister Maureen. They do good work at Dorothy Day House," said Eric Goad, manager at Barton's.
Goad says he used his bonus points with Nussbaum Distributing, a Memphis tire distributor, to obtain four new tires. O'Reilly Auto Parts donated a new battery, and the guys at Barton's changed the oil and topped off the air conditioning unit so it would blow cold air in the late Memphis summer heat.
Fixing the donated Ms. Kett's Prius became a family affair. Repair Shop owner Ken Barton's Uncle Frank Barton, now nearly 80 years old, donated the Toyota's towing from South Bluffs to Barton's Car Care at 1553 Overton Park Ave. in Midtown.
"We try to be charitable people," said Frank Barton, who's operated Frank's Towing Service in Memphis since 1959. The near octogenarian said he paid his driver for the tow to his nephew's shop. "We try to help. It depends on the situation. We're like a towing ministry sometimes. We try to do things."
Sister Maureen says the family that receives a car through the ministry must obtain and pay for their own auto insurance. The Dorothy Day House welcomes vehicle donations, "but can only accept cars that are in good running condition. Neither the DDH nor our families can afford expensive car repairs," Sister Maureen said. Ms. Kett gave another car to the Salvation Army before leaving Chicago last year and is happy to help a charity in her new city.
"I just hope it makes someone's life easier, "Kett said. "I realize that not having a car can be a big hindrance for people who don't live in large cities with a good public transportation system, and if this donation eases that burden, I'm happy that I could help," the Toyota donor said.
The ministry has passed on donated cars to families who are former residents of the homeless shelter. "They are always extremely grateful," Sister Maureen said.
Dorothy Day House is currently in expansion mode, launching a capital campaign to renovate properties formerly owned and operated by Church Health. DDH is the only Memphis homeless shelter that allows families to remain together while getting back on their feet.
The demand is great. The day the Toyota arrived at Dorothy Day House, Sister Maureen revealed, "We turned away ten families today. The problem of family homelessness is growing," she said.
Thanks to one new Memphian, a family going through the grit and grind of homelessness will have freshly restored 2002 Toyota Prius to help them get back on the road to a life that really goes somewhere.