Dan Eylar, a technician at Union Gospel Mission Motors, knows cars. He's worked on them professionally for more than 30 years, so he's seen just about every make and model there is. But he also has a deeper interest with a much wider variety: people in recovery.
Originally from Okanogan, Dan went through a 12-step recovery program in Spokane in the early 1980s to address a problem with drugs and alcohol that had gotten him into trouble and into jail multiple times. Recovery support meetings and trusting God were crucial to his recovery.
Since then, he estimates, he's gone to more than 10,000 meetings. And he's not just looking for help staying clean and sober himself; he now leads Steps to Life, a ministry to folks in recovery at the Life Center church in Spokane. He’s also done ministry at the Pine Lodge Correctional Facility in Medical Lake, which reminded him of the time he spent behind bars.
"My burden is light," he says. Jesus said it first -- but when Dan says it of himself, he means he's burdened to share the light of Christ with others who find themselves where he used to be.
"I try to give away what I was really given," he says. "I didn't deserve to have the things that have happened. I feel blessed, so I try and share that with other people."
God has placed Dan where there are many who benefit from his experiences and his burden for sharing the light of Christ. Dan had worked for several decades in auto repair shops, but it was actually his pastor who told him about a mechanic job opening at UGM Motors.
"When your church calls you and says, 'Hey, there's this job you might want,' it kind of makes you think maybe God has something to do with it," he says with a smile. And despite his involvement in recovery support at Life Center, he had no idea how much UGM has to offer in that area, from Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall and the Center for Women and Children to the Thrift Stores, where Dan’s wife, Susan, now works.
Starting the job at Motors in 2013, Dan found himself in the middle of a Christ-honoring, mutually supportive workplace in which he could use his unique knowledge -- of cars and recovery -- in a way that helps others, both directly and indirectly.
But he still had some adjusting to do. The salty language pervasive in regular auto shops wasn't a part of UGM Motors, and he had to learn to watch his mouth.
"It was really weird at first to not hear it in the shop ... . I did a lot of growing in the first year, adapting to a job where I was always used to working with people that were coarse and lived on the edge, to working with people who want to recover."
One misconception Dan often hears is that those who work in the Motors service department or fix up donated cars for sale are fresh off the street and learning on the job. In reality, certified and experienced mechanics like Dan are the ones looking under the hood.
Many of those in recovery who work at Motors are in temporary jobs called Employment Training Opportunities (ETOs), a chance to build up their work history and learn new skills, like customer service and auto detailing, that will help them re-enter the workforce.
Dan’s day-to-day work is to get donated cars running safely. Sales at UGM Motors are mostly to people who need an affordable commuter car, he says. Helping lower-income people get reliable transportation to work is another way UGM helps prevent the financial crises that can lead to homelessness.
“The $2,500 car is our main thing,” Dan says. “We get a lot of American cars. And we get a few foreign cars, everything.” Yes, everything: There are a few Corvettes, an old Packard, even a hang glider out back.
Even if it’s not cost-effective to fix a car to UGM’s standards of safety and reliability, Dan says, the donated cars always go to good use: they're used for parts or sold for scrap metal. And people in the community are generous: There are always more cars than he has time to work on.
On top of doing triage on donated cars, Dan also consults with the mechanics in the Motors service department when they encounter a tough problem. And he always finds time to interact with the folks doing an ETO and see how they’re doing in recovery.
His favorite question for them: "What are you putting in your life?" You have to put good in to get good out, he says. He appreciates how Motors puts in good stuff by gathering all the workers together for devotions each morning.
“That was my first experience with a Bible study in the workplace. I really took to it, I really liked it. I'm very inquisitive. I want to know more about Christ, more and more.”
It’s also a daily reminder of what God is doing at Motors by bringing Dan’s skills to bear on the generous donations of the community: All proceeds from Motors go directly into UGM’s shelters and recovery programs.
“There are so many different lives that are touched by your car that you're donating. It's not just feeding people; it's helping them out. It's helping them out by feeding them, yes, but it's also helping them out by giving them programs where they can change their lives, where without it they couldn't. They would be on the streets still. I've seen some people come through here and change their lives. That's an awesome thing to see. Your car can make the difference.”
Your car can help the homeless. Donate your vehicle to UGM.