Story by Kacie Frederick. Photos by Jan Osborn.
An estimated 40% of the United States population cannot come up with $400 in case of emergencies. In Texas, that $400 is the average cost for vehicle repairs. Manuel Tellez, Founder and Chairperson of Autocare Haven, decided to do something about this statistic in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Autocare Haven, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, pays for car repairs for those who need a helping hand in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Rockwall counties.
In 2006, Tellez moved to Dallas after graduating from Texas Tech as a first-generation student. Soon after, he noticed issues with his truck, but the repair fees were out of his budget. With no other resort, Tellez turned to take out a payday loan in order to fix his truck—something he relied on for his way of life. Tellez then noticed a trend within the loan office; many individuals in Dallas were struggling with the same problem: the inability to afford proper auto repair.
“That was the catalyst for Autocare Haven,” says Tellez. “Anyone who lives in Dallas knows that they need a car to get groceries, go to work, or take their kids to school. You can’t rely on DART, Uber, or even rides from friends because then you are relying on someone else. Autocare Haven is about giving folks hope that they can keep their independence.”
Autocare Haven started in 2018 with only 3 board members, which now has expanded to 10, including the Founder, Manuel Tellez. Board Members Samuel Simmons, Linda Ramirez, Lisa Lopez, Lauren Ortega, Scot MacRae, Tyler Wear, Jeff Eazor, Mystica Jacob, and Mark Wootton use their expertise in treasury, social media, marketing, and fundraising to ensure Autocare Haven’s success. With their help, Autocare Haven’s objective spreads through the metroplex as the nonprofit provides free car repairs to those in our community that desperately need them.
Applicants are to show a driver’s license, proof of residency, and proof of income for Autocare Haven’s mechanics to diagnose their vehicle. Autocare Haven uses independent mechanics, not repair shops, to help lower their costs. Building long-term relationships with these mechanics, who embody the mission of Autocare Haven, soon realize that their work is worth much more than the profit—but to help those in need. Autocare Haven has also partnered with AutoZone and Amazon, which gives the nonprofit discounts and donates auto parts and fluids. Autocare Haven’s goal is to cover the repair fees completely for their clients, and so far, they have not had to ask anyone for financial assistance.
This past spring, Autocare Haven was able to donate a single mom a 2008 Mazda CX-9. After struggling with homelessness and domestic violence, this young mother applied for vehicle assistance with Autocare Haven. She has a child with medical complexities and is also caring for her aging mother—she needs a car to survive. But her vehicle needed more extensive repairs. Autocare Haven was gifted the Mazda CX-9 by an individual based in Frisco who wanted the car to be given to someone in need. Autocare Haven’s staff decided this mother was the perfect candidate due to her earnest candor.
Additionally, Autocare Haven partnered with Jubilee Park Community Center in May for their first-ever “Top Off Event.” Individuals in the community could drive to the park and have their automotive fluids topped off for free. Autocare Haven helped 47 people with zip codes from all over the metroplex by topping off their fluids, checking underneath their hoods, and giving their cars consultations. Lisa Lopez, Board Member of Autocare Haven and Community Outreach Manager of Jubilee Park, planned this great event.
“I noticed many people applying for financial help through Jubilee were getting behind in their bills because of car repairs. So, I decided to hook them up with our applications at Autocare Haven,” Lopez says. “Then, seeing our Top Off Event’s success, we want to do it again. It’s that feeling of really helping someone that keeps us doing what we do. It just really fills your soul.”
Autocare Haven is a nonprofit dedicated to giving free car repairs to those in need in the North Texas area. Autocare Haven is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, making your donation tax-deductible. Donations can be made online at https://autocarehaven.org/donate/, through Cash App @autocarehaven, PayPal @autocarehaven, Venmo @autocarehaven, or Zelle email@example.com. You may also send a check to Treasurer Scot MacRae, 5121 Cedar Springs Rd. #114, Dallas, TX 75235.