A rural South Carolina restaurant owner has been transforming lives by repairing broken cars in his spare time and giving them away in his community where there is no public transportation, Uber or taxi service. Eliot Middleton owns Middleton’s Village BBQ and is also a trained mechanic who started repairing and gifting the cars as a way to honor the memory of his father, who was a mechanic.
To get the cars, he trades a plate of ribs from his restaurant, Middleton’s Village BBQ, to anyone willing to part with a broken-down vehicle. Since he started this in September 2020, he’s collected 100 cars and surprised 33 community members with a repaired vehicle – without asking for a single thing in return. “You don’t have a car, you don’t have a career. How will people who have no reliable buses, no Ubers, travel to the city, where they would be able to find bigger jobs at the port authorities or manufacturing centers?” Middleton told CNN. “They can’t walk 40, 50, 60 miles to great jobs – they have to settle for small-end jobs that pay well below what they need to survive. Giving someone a car can change all that, and it does change all that. I want to help everybody looking to better themselves when transportation is what’s holding them back” he said.
He said the idea first came to him in November 2019, when he organized a food drive to distribute 250 boxes of his barbeque. When he ran out of boxes, he walked outside and saw a line of people still waiting for food that was two blocks long. As people started walking away, he caught up to them and learned many had walked 3 to 4 miles to get the food because they didnt have a car to get there on time. Hearing that left him feeling distraught. “That was the turning point in my life when I made the decision to actively give my time and skills to give back to my community.”
Eliot started a nonprofit, Middleton’s Village To Village Foundation and a few friends started helping him repair the cars. Middleton, who owned a car repair shop with his dad before he opened his restaurant said “I like working on cars with a lot of problems because that’s my time to relate to my father, speak with him, because that’s what we’ve always done together. It makes me feel like he’s right there. It’s helping me as much as it’s helping the people I give the cars to because this is allowing me to cope with the fact that my dad’s not here anymore.”
After the story of his selfless deed was aired on nationwide TV, Eliot received an outpouring of donations including more than 800 cars and thousands of messages from people offering their help and services to assist his mission. The GoFundMe he started in March has also raised over $130,000 from people around the world in just 2 weeks. Eliot raised the goal to $150,000 after it surpassed the $50,000 goal and updated the GoFundMe. “Thank you to all the most generous individuals who have donated their hard-earned money to helping people get access to safe, working vehicles. We started this project with a goal of raising $50,000, but your outpouring of support has allowed us to double that amount and make an even bigger impact. This small but mighty group of mechanics will continue to work our hardest to get as many vehicles in our shop and ready to hit the road.”