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Santa Rosa auto repair shop devoted to helping single moms

SAL is a full service auto repair shop, open to the public. On the outside, it doesn’t look any different than any other car repair shop. But on the walls inside are the painted words, “We Keep Single Mothers Moving Forward.”

“There was a study done, and it takes about three hours to go less than 20 miles anywhere in Sonoma County. If you think of a single mom who is trying to go to school, trying to get her kids to school, do the grocery shopping, run the errands and go to work, all on a bus, that just makes your long day even longer,” Nalywaiko said. “And these moms who are on the social service side of it have these vehicles that are just barely running. And most of the time when those cars die they just won’t be able to afford to fix them.”

Angerman said when she picked up her car from SAL, fully operational and at no charge, she was completely overcome.

“I started crying. They had just saved my life” she said. “Here I was feeling this despair, almost hopelessness, and then this amazing act of kindness.”

At the moment SAL works exclusively through the CalWORKS program at Santa Rosa Junior College and the YWCA, agencies equipped to screen potential recipients. So far the shop has been able to do several free repair jobs a month. As paying business increases, they are hoping to hire more mechanics to add to the one full-time and one part-time mechanic already on staff, giving them the ability to serve even more needy mothers. SAL is equipped to do most all types of repair work on every make of vehicle, as well as routine maintenance required of manufacturer’s warranties.

“Ultimately we would love to have 10 to 15 cars a week coming through here for single moms,” Nalywaiko said.

Amy Ethington, who oversees CalWORKS program at Santa Rosa Junior College, said success for students under her program hinges on transportation. If they can’t get to class, their benefits are in jeopardy.

“It can really change their whole approach to education. If you can’t get here, the anxiety goes through the roof for our students. The expense alone to maintain a vehicle can be astronomical. To our students who are parenting and going to school with a very fixed budget, thinking about the expense of car repairs on top of that is frightening.”

When Nalywaiko started investigating the idea, he was unable to find any comparable model in the country. Many mechanics will do some pro bono work. And there are organizations that donate cars, like Santa Rosa’s Crozat Family Foundation, which provides free cars to needy people who have “hit a pothole in the road of life,” as they say. But Nalywaiko could not find any shop in the country that was run by the same model, with paying customers subsidizing the charity work.

Nalywaiko at first didn’t get a lot of encouragement from accountants that he consulted. It was the CFO for Visiquate, the Santa Rosa company that Nalywaiko works for doing video production and marketing, who figured it out, based on his years of experience in nonprofit work.

Visiquate has supported his work for years, paying him essentially a full-time salary for part-time work, which gives him the time to run SAL Auto.

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