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Friday, 21 February 2020 14:01

Second Chances Garage in MD, Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Help of 'The Humble Mechanic'

Written by Erika Riley, The Fredrick News-Post
Chimaine Brandford reacts after receiving the keys to her refurbished 2005 Volkswagen Passat from Charles Sanville, the auto repair specialist who has the YouTube channel “The Humble Mechanic,” on Thursday at Second Chances Garage in Frederick. CREDIT: Bill Green Chimaine Brandford reacts after receiving the keys to her refurbished 2005 Volkswagen Passat from Charles Sanville, the auto repair specialist who has the YouTube channel “The Humble Mechanic,” on Thursday at Second Chances Garage in Frederick. CREDIT: Bill Green Bill Green

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Second Chances Garage, which sits on Market Street at the north end of downtown Frederick, looks like an ordinary auto shop on the outside. But it’s far from it. The shop sells its cars for $500 — plus $280 for titling — to those who need them the most but cannot afford them.

Second Chances turns 10 this year. To celebrate, the Second Chances mechanics and their apprentices from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School worked with Charles Sanville of the YouTube channel “The Humble Mechanic” to refurbish a car that Sanville, who has 375,000 subscribers to his channel, donated himself.


Cars are usually donated by members of the community and then fixed up by Second Chances mechanics.

 

Depending on the condition of the car and the work it needs, it will either be sold through the Low-Cost Vehicle Program, or put out on the lot for between $1,000 and $5,000.


It’s not exactly big bucks. But it helps the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offset the cost of selling refurbished cars at a reduced price.


To qualify for the Low-Cost Vehicle Program, the clients must go through a partner agency such as the Frederick Rescue Mission, Heartly House or the Housing Authority.


The car, which Sanville had towed up from his home in North Carolina, is a 2005 Volkswagen Passat that he and his family no longer need. It holds a lot of memories for him, however.


“Not everybody loves their car, but I get really attached,” Sanville said. “We bought this car in ’07, so we’ve had it forever.

 

It’s the car my daughter came home from the hospital in, we brought the dog home in, and all that, so it’s cool.”


He had been planning to fix it up for a while, and maybe making some YouTube videos with it.

 

Sanville makes videos about cars, repairs and parts.


But instead he decided to do something better, once he heard about Second Chances through his partnership with Gearwrench, an automotive tool company.


Shimaine Brandford, a Frederick resident who received the car on Thursday morning, has not been able to fully meet the demands of her job without a vehicle.

 

She works as a caretaker, primarily for elderly people. With a car, she will be able to drive her clients to their medical appointments, and to the grocery store.


“It’ll get me to work, to provide for my son, because I have a son, it can get me back and forth to school to further my career, get my son into sports because he’d like to play sports,” she said.

 

“So I can take him to practice, and to the games.”


It’s going to change her life.


“That’s really, really cool that she’s doing something awesome for herself, and that’s allowing her to do something awesome for other people,” Sanville said.


Ray Brown, the new chair of the Second Chances board, stressed the importance of having a car, especially in the suburbs.


“How could you go to school? How could you get your children to sports activities, to get to your job?” Brown said.

 

“That’s how important owning a car is, particularly in Frederick.”


Repairs on the Passat included replacing the timing belt and brakes, suspension work, fixing oil leaks and changing engine mounts.

 

Sanville said the car was in good shape, but needed some upgrades in order to pass the Maryland inspection for used vehicles.


When the nonprofit started 10 years ago, it was doubtful it would even make it past a few years, said John Frawley, board member and outgoing chair.

 

After the shop started offering low-cost repairs on cars for $50 an hour — which is half the industry standard rate — for low-income residents, the shop started losing money.


“And then we waited until we had the right people in the business, and then we started the program up again, and it’s been wildly successful since then,” Frawley said.

The shop now has partnerships with several for-profit organizations including Gearwrench, Dynamic Automotive and Interstate Batteries, which donate a battery for every car the garage gives away.


Last year, the nonprofit gave away 50 cars through the program.


The program has also benefited from the addition of apprentices from the Frederick County Career and Technology Center, a partnership that began last year.

 

Brett McClavey, a junior at Thomas Johnson High, said he wanted to join the program to learn useful skills.


Plus, Gearwrench gives the apprentices $2,400 worth of tools once they graduate.


Sanville was particularly excited to work with Second Chances Garage because he knew that the auto body shop worked with apprentices, which he thinks is a practice that’s dying out in the automotive industry.


“We in the auto industry do a lot of complaining that things aren’t right, or this or that ... but a lot of the complainers aren’t doing anything about it, and shops like this are actually doing something,” Sanville said.

 

“And so it’s so fun to be able to work with these guys and have fun and teach them the basics, the basics-plus, and things that you’re not going to be able to learn in a school environment.”


“We in the auto industry do a lot of complaining that things aren’t right, or this or that ... but a lot of the complainers aren’t doing anything about it, and shops like this are actually doing something,” Sanville said.

 

“And so it’s so fun to be able to work with these guys and have fun and teach them the basics, the basics-plus, and things that you’re not going to be able to learn in a school environment.”


Joe Hall, head mechanic at Second Chances, works closely with the apprentices almost every day.


“The industry is not built around building up technicians at the shop or at the dealer level,” Hall said.

 

“They want to hit a button on a vending machine and have a technician who can work and do anything they want right off the bat.”


The learning environment and the low-cost cars allow the apprentices a chance to mess up and learn new skills.

 

Hall said he can always go back and fix any mistakes that are made.


“I try to get them into stuff that they’re not going to be working on for years, give them the confidence to try something different while they’re here,” Hall said.


Brown agrees that confidence is an important skill the students have learned from Hall, who received an award from Automotive Service Excellence on Tuesday night.


“As I watched him interact with the apprentices, the one thing that I know that he builds in his apprentices, as well as his knowledge, is confidence,” Brown said.

 

“And that confidence that he builds in his apprentices is going to carry them a long ways in life.”


And the work those apprentices do on cars in the program will carry others a long way, too.


After Sanville handed the keys to Brandford on Thursday morning, she opened the door and slid in, her smile beaming.


She said that it somehow had that new-car smell.

 

We thank The Fredrick News-Post for reprint permission.