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St. Vrain auto students help women in need

Local students are volunteering their time to fix and restore cars for community members.
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Knowing how – and remembering – to perform routine maintenance and some other engine work can save you a lot of money  on mechanics’s bills, as can some knowledge of how internal combustion engines work.

Automotive technology students in the St. Vrain Valley School District are using their skills to fix and restore cars for women in need.

The district’s Career Elevation and Technology Center has partnered with the local nonprofit A Women’s Work for its Driving for Success program.

Brian Smallwood, an automotive technology teacher at the center, mentors the students who fix the cars.

“We do all of the Driving for Success program work,” Smallwood said. “It’s just the cost of parts, which saves A Woman’s Work a tremendous amount of money.”

The community service program is partnered with Stapp Interstate Toyota, which provides cars that have been traded in.

“Some of their trade-ins that come in, that don’t quite fit their clientele, we purchase those,” Smallwood explained. “Then the students go through them, get them ready and maintenance, and then deliver them to the ladies.”

The students have fixed at least a dozen cars over the past year, and restored more than 10 purchased vehicles, said Libby Fitzgibbons, program director for A Woman’s Work.

The women who receive the cars are ecstatic, Fitzgibbons said.

“Sometimes they scream, sometimes they cry — all kinds of emotions,” she said. “They’re so grateful.”

Fitzgibbons said the program achieved success because of Smallwood’s dedication.

“We all refer to Brian as our ‘car angel’ because he is wonderful to work with, generous with his time and expertise, and very kind to the women he is helping,” Fitzgibbons said. “We are able to help many more women with transportation needs thanks to Brian and his students.”

A Women’s Work helps community members in the St. Vrain Valley who need financial support for immediate needs that can’t be met by other resources.

“We have professional partners in the community that include social workers, counselors and other nonprofits, and those organizations will make referrals to us on behalf of the women they serve … that is also how our Driving for Success applicants are approved,” said Kate Gaddis, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The newly-fixed cars help the women get to work and drive their children to school, Gaddis said.

Smallwood’s students are set to present their community service project at a Skills USA state leadership conference in early April at the Pueblo Convention Center.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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