Food shelf fundraisers typically involve events such as walks, runs and church food drives. But Signal Garage in West St. Paul has concocted a novel incentive to rustle up donations — offering free brake jobs.
Each August, Signal Garage makes a deal. Anyone who brings in a full grocery bag of food and/or school supplies gets their brakes inspected, and brake pads or shoes installed, for free.
It’s a great deal for customers, who pay nothing for a service that can cost $100 to $200. It’s also been a great deal for two local food shelves, which this week picked up the mountains of groceries stacked in the waiting rooms of the garage’s two locations.
“We donate the labor, our vendors donate the pads, and our customers donate the food,” said Avi Derhy, manager of the West St. Paul garage owned by his parents, Rami and Heidi Derhy.
Derhy said the family came up with the idea of donating brake work because they wanted to give something tangible. Rather than just donate a check to buy groceries for those in need, they liked the idea of giving something back to the community.
So for the past six years, the Derhys have set aside the month of August for their fundraiser. It’s a slow month in the auto industry, said Derhy, but a high-demand month for school supplies and food.
Customers sign up for the service, he said, and leave behind bags of food and supplies for food shelves operated at the Neighborhood House in St. Paul and Neighbors Inc. in South St. Paul.
On Monday, several Neighborhood House vans pulled up to Signal Garage’s two shops and hauled off 2,300 pounds of food. About 1,000 pounds of food was dropped off by the repair shop’s staff at Neighbors Inc. earlier.
Derhy said his customers appreciate the effort.
“We’ve gotten a lot of thank-yous from customers,” said Derhy. “You don’t hear about a lot of local businesses doing things like this.”