By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
TUALATIN — Let’s begin by clarifying what Bob’s Auto Café is not.
First off, there is no “Bob.” involved. The story that founder and executive director Daniel Lacy tells is that the name simply honors his now-adult daughter Danielle, who took a liking at age 2 to Bob as a nickname, and it stuck.
Secondly, there’s no café — yet, although Lacy says for fun he hopes to incorporate a food component of some sort into the operation eventually.
Now that those two points are settled, let’s focus on what Bob’s Auto Café is — an unusual and innovative non-profit Christian ministry designed to help a lot of people, and which has done so since its founding in 2016.
“The whole idea has never been getting money from people; it’s how can we help others,” said Lacy. “I just love helping people.”
Lacy also loves cars and motorcycles — much of his business background has been in the motorsports racing industry — which is why he chose to start an auto repair shop with a three-pronged mission:
•training people seeking employment in the automotive field;
•performing quality car service at a fair price;
•and helping those with validated needs to get into a safe and reliable vehicle.
A follower of Christ since his youth who also has served as a motorsports chaplain, Lacy is up-front about the intentional spiritual underpinnings of what goes on in Building 10 at 11135 S.W. Industrial Way in Tualatin.
“It’s to promote the Gospel, not only through words but also in actions,” he said.
As a training facility, Bob’s Auto Café provides real-world experience to paid interns in a live automotive sales and repair facility, with the goal of providing employers with ASE-certified mechanics qualified for entry-level automotive positions. Lacy said the paid internships allow those who are unemployed or underemployed to pursue the training, which they might otherwise not afford in traditional schools. The shop has had almost a dozen interns over its first three years.
Bo Griffin of Portland, an intern with the shop since September 2017, first heard about the ministry through the parent of a fellow Boy Scout. He enrolled in the program knowing very little about cars. and says he has learned a lot. He appreciates that the program is less structured than a classroom setting.
“I definitely like the hands-on part of it,” he said.
The shop works on all makes and model of cars. Helping doing the training is Jamie Brooks of Oregon City, who has 20 years of experience as a mechanic at several new and used car dealerships in the Portland metro area. Brooks graduated from Portland Community College with an associate degree in auto repair and also completed a General Motors service program.
Brooks believes the non-profit ministry concept of Bob’s Auto Café could eventually be replicated elsewhere. “It has great potential,” he said.
A Christian since 2012, Dustin Paulson is new to the shop as operations manager, helping free up Lacy’s time to promote the ministry and secure donations of vehicles, on which Bob’s Auto Café, a 501(c)3 charity, is strongly and constantly dependent. In addition to repairing customer vehicles, the shop restores donated cars and then sells them to the public to subsidize the operation.
“I love it,” Paulson said. “It’s just an amazing platform for the Lord to be trusted to do His work.”
The ministry is governed by a five-member board. Lacy said the shop got off the ground through community donations, including about $125,000 worth of equipment given through his connections in the motorsports industry.
Last year Bob’s Auto Café provided what Lacy estimates was $20,000 worth of auto service, but at a cut rate to people who had been referred because of their financial need. He said he hopes to double that amount this year.
Referrals for customers have come from Love INC (Love in the Name of Christ) programs in Newberg, Oregon City and Tigard-Tualatin, as well as from Grace Chapel church in Wilsonville.
Lacy said quite often those clients represent not only physical needs as a result of their financial constraints, but also deep spiritual needs, and the shop stands ready to minister with the compassion of Jesus and to give Him the credit for what takes place.
“I’m blown away by what God has done,” said Lacy.
For more information on the ministry, go tobobsautocafe.com