Auto shop launches car giveaway program

By 
Joseph Bullington — Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, March 1, 2019
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Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Aden McDonnell, owner of Automatic Transmission Specialist, stands in the ATS shop in front of the 2004 Honda Element he is preparing to give away to a community member who needs a car.

Aden McDonnell, owner of Automatic Transmission Specialist in Livingston, has seen the way the loss of vehicle can impact a person’s life. 

“They can’t haul their kids around anymore, they can’t take their wives to the hospital anymore,” McDonnell said. “I see this daily.”

So ATS partnered with other local parts and repair shops, local nonprofits, and the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce to start giving cars to people who need them. The first vehicle to be given out as part of the Park County Automobile Giving Program is ready and ATS is looking for applicants.

Here’s how it works.

McDonnell said he gets a lot of vehicles in his shop that are still good but need so much money in repairs that the owner decides to scrap them. Instead, McDonnell wants to refurbish the vehicles and give them, for free, to people who need them.

The pilot vehicle in the project is a 2004 Honda Element. When McDonnell pitched his idea to the car’s previous owner, the owner didn’t even want the scrap value of the vehicle — he just said, “I’ll bring the title right down to you,” McDonnell remembered.

McDonnell and his technicians got the vehicle driving. The parts they needed were donated by Napa Auto Parts and Carquest Auto Parts in Livingston and all the fluids were donated by Whites Alpine Distributing. Next, the car was taken to All Service Tire, which donated four tires. And, finally, it was finished at Old Faithful Detailing.

Now, ATS is looking for people to apply to receive the vehicle. Applicants must explain what challenges they are facing, the goals they have for improving their situation, and how a car will help them meet those goals. McDonnell will choose five finalists, call them, and meet with them in person to determine who, ultimately, will receive the car. However, the applications of those who aren’t chosen will be kept on hand and automatically entered to receive future giveaway vehicles.

McDonnell is hoping to choose a recipient for this vehicle by mid- to late-March. Applications are available at ATS, the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce, Community Closet, Community Health Partners, Loaves and Fishes and the Livingston Food Resource Center and should be turned into the Chamber of Commerce at 303 E. Park St. or emailed to info@livingston-chamber.com.

“This project has been in my wheelhouse for years but I just didn’t know how to put it together,” said McDonnell.

His family, he said, has been in the auto repair industry in Livingston since the 1960s.

“The automotive industry has a cloud over it because it’s seen as not always operating honestly,” he said — and he wanted to change that.

“You can’t just talk, talk, talk,” he went on. “I wanted to give back. There’s people in this community that need help, and we’re going to find them, and we’re going to give them a car.”

Livingston Chamber Executive Director Leslie Feigel, he said, was instrumental in helping put the program together and rallying support.

“What it’s about is whose life would change from getting a vehicle,” Feigel said. “I did not hesitate to get the chamber involved and pull together the different non profits in our community.”

“We already have a community that communicates and comes together, so this is just another aspect of it,” she said.

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