1994: Visionary social activist (and Lutheran) Hal Colston was working at a human service agency in Vermont when one of his clients, a single mom with two children, came to him in tears. She had just purchased a car for $500, but the brakes failed, the car broke down repeatedly, and the seller refused to refund her money. Hal came up with an idea for a "community garage" - a place where people struggling to get out of poverty could buy a car that was affordable, safe and reliable.
1995: Lutheran Social Services (LSS) devoted time and resources to make Hal's idea a reality. Pastor Frederick "Rick" Neu, Bill Valliere and Reverend Doug Ward logged hundreds of hours with Hal to organize logistics, recruit volunteers, raise money and start collecting car donations. Signs were posted in Lutheran congregations in Vermont and people started dropping off donated cars in the parking lot of Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington, Vt.
1996: Good News Garage officially opened its doors in Burlington, as a program of Lutheran Social Services, with financial support from LSS and a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries. Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) loaned Good News Garage space on King Street in Burlington for a small office and garage.
1997: With the help of Burlington Community Land Trust (now Champlain Housing Trust), Good News Garage launched a capital campaign to raise money to renovate the former Vermont Transit Bus Barn. Good News Garage moved to its current Burlington location in the Old North End.
1998-2000: Good News Garage received special recognition from the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for entrepreneurism in social service programming. Good News Garage also received recognition from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in its Best Practice report for 1998 and 1999; and in July of 200 was recognized a HUD "Best of the Best" nonprofit agency.
2000: Good News Garage launched a transitional transportation service in Vermont that schedules rides for clients to access essential life activities, including jobs, job training and childcare. Today, Ready To Go (originally called Commute Share) provides more than 30,000 rides annually throughout the state of Vermont. Also in 2000, Good News Garage began operations in Connecticut and Massachusetts!
2001: A partnership with Lee Myles Garage in New Haven, Conn., to repair donated vehicles for families in need was born. John Vuoso, owner of Lee Myles Garage also extends discounts to Good News Garage clients for the lifetime of their car.
2002: Good News Garage opened an office in Manchester, N.H., with support from Rockingham Community Action and other local businesses and community organizations.
2005: Good News Garage in southern New England consolidated into one central office in East Hartford, Conn.
2006: Good News Garage turned 10 years old! More than 2,500 individuals and families have received cars.
2007: A generous donor gave Good News Garage a 1980 MG and Hemmings Motor News Sports and Exotic Car staff offered to restore it and get the car running and looking good again. Once complete, the MG will be sold as a fundraiser for Good News Garage.
2008: Hal Colston, Good News Garage's visionary founder, was featured in People Magazine, Reader's Digest and on "The Today Show." Hillcrest Terrace Retirement Community in Manchester, N.H., began hosting "Cars for a Cause," an annual car show which benefits Good News Garage.
2009: Hal Colston appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" because of Good News Garage's record of providing reliable cars to low income families to help them move from welfare to work. Rick Hendrick (of Hendrick Motorsports and winning NASCAR race teams) stood up in the audience and announced his intent to donate ten pre-owned 2008 Chevy Impalas and $10,000 in cash. LSS and Good News Garage formed special selection committees and 10 deserving families from across New England were chosen to receive these gifts. Good News Garage expanded to Rhode Island thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and support from local Lutheran churches.
2010: Good News Garage launched transMISSIONs - The Good News Garage Vehicle Donation Alliance, an innovative program to assist nonprofit organizations launch their own car donation programs. A generous and longtime donor donated her 1936 Chevy Truck to Good News Garage. The bright yellow street rod soon became and official representative of the Good News Garage program at events across New England.
2011: Good News Garage officially established its presence in social media, with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts. In Burlington, Vt., the Good News Garage flagship office opened up its garage to the public to offer quality car repairs, scheduled maintenance services, inspections brake work and more. Revenue from this social enterprise will support the Good News Garage mission and its programs.
In 2011 Good News Garage celebrated its 15th Birthday and has awarded more than 4,000 refurbished vehicles to low-income families throughout New England!
What's next for Good News Garage? Stay in touch with us through Facebook and Twitter or sign-up for our e-newsletter to find out! You can also help shape our future by donating your car, cash, or time! Thank you for your ongoing support.