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Kim Doe desperately depended on her used 2002 Honda Civic. She drove it across country with her two sons to escape an ex-husband who was threatening their lives.
Once in Colorado, she needed it to drive her boys to school, doctors' appointments-one of her sons is disabled-and to a local police academy, where she learned ways to respond if her ex-husband ever tried to find them.
But after a year her old car's steering was off, its motor mount broken, and its brakes and shocks problematical. Without money for costly repairs, she did not know how she and her sons could continue their new lives. Then through a domestic violence shelter, she heard about Hands of the Carpenter (ehands.org), a Denver-area organization founded in 2003 that repairs the cars of single moms like Doe. (WORLD agreed to protect her safety by not using her real name.)
Hands staffer Juli Hobin-herself a single mom-interviewed Doe, saw she was on the road to financial self-sufficiency, and noted that the value of the Honda was still greater than the cost of repairs. She sent Doe to Hands Automotive in Lakewood, Colo., the shop Hands of the Carpenter opened in 2010. Previously, Hands had used other shops, but the typical $500-$1,000 repair costs sharply limited the number of women it could help.
Now, Hands relies both on donations and on the revenue flow of Hands Automotive, which has paying customers as well as charitable ones. In 2011, Hands helped 146 single moms and widows, and offered car care clinics featuring basic car maintenance classes and oil changes. Ray Betts, who mans the Hands front desk, often listens to the women's stories and prays with them: "They have no control over their finances, house, or job, but when they can bring their car in and we can help them ... it's the greatest feeling."
Car repair needs often lead to conversations about the gospel. Hands staffer Hobin tells of a Buddhist who asked her why Hands was helping. Hobin said "This is God's heart for you, His heart to cover you as a single mother"-and then told her about Jesus. The woman replied, "My Buddha would never help me like this."
Hands has changed over the years. Founder Dan Georgopulos first became aware of the need in 2003 while leading a single parent ministry at Lookout Mountain Community Church, 20 minutes west of Lakewood. The original ministry focus was on home repairs, but as Georgopulos expanded his ministry out of the church, he learned that few women owned their own homes, yet almost all of them had 10- to 15-year-old cars that needed repairs. He started talking to different auto shops and found some that would repair the cars for a discounted price.
Last fall, Hands started transitioning from one-time repairs to a sponsorship program in which a donor supports a single mother for an unlimited number of repairs over a two-year span. This helps deal with ongoing car problems and gives Hands more time to develop relationships with these women through single mother support groups and car classes.
The Hands relationship with Kim Doe has clearly worked, with a donor serving as sponsor. Doe graduated from the academy in December, found a part-time job at the police department, and is now applying for a full-time position. "You can work hard, but if you don't have certain things in place, you will get nowhere," she said. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Hands of the Carpenter-they made a world of a difference. ... There is no one out there like this."
• Hands of the Carpenter reported $206,000 in contributions/grants in 2009 and $350,000 in 2010. Total expenses each year were $249,000.
• The organization had $131,000 in assets at the close of 2010.
• President/CEO Georgopulos received a salary of $70,000 in 2010.
• This year's budget: $400,000.
Read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2012 on WORLD's Hope Award page.