Eliot Middleton, owner of Middleton & Maker Village BBQ in Awendaw, has been fixing junk cars and donating them to people in rural areas of South Carolina. Public transportation and rideshare services like
. The father and son duo had even worked alongside each other when they started a mechanic shop in 2004 and ran it for 10 years.
A little more than a year after his dad’s death, Middleton is honoring his dad by continuing to fix cars and giving back to the community.
Where did the car repair idea come from?
Middleton got the idea to gift vehicles to people in need in November 2019. Back then, he had organized a food drive to distribute 250 boxes of his barbecue.
He ended up running out of boxes, but there was still a line two blocks long of people waiting for food. At that point, he noticed that most of the people started walking back to the other side of town.
Middleton found out that some of them had walked three or four miles to get there. They couldn’t make it before the boxes ran out because they had no cars and were forced to walk.
He called that a turning point in his life—and he decided to use his car repair skills to give back to his community.
Now, Middleton trades plates of ribs from his restaurant to anyone willing to part with a broken-down vehicle. He also launched an online fundraising campaign to support the project.
He gives new life to the cars and donates them to people in South Carolina who have no reliable transportation. People who have a car can travel to the city to work. They don’t have to rely on closer, small-end jobs that pay below what they need to survive, Middleton told CNN.
Other recipients of Middleton’s cars include single moms, job seekers, and older people who have doctor’s appointments they need to attend.
Honoring his father’s legacy
Middleton wakes up early five days a week to prep his barbecue restaurant for the day. On the days he has off, he spends time with his daughters or is bent over a car that he’s fixing for someone in need.
For Middleton, it feels good to help others, but it also helps him feel closer to his father because they always worked on cars together. When Middleton started repairing cars for strangers in September 2020 after his dad had passed away earlier in the year, it helped Middleton face his father’s death.
"It makes me feel like he's right there," Middleton told CNN. "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."
How to donate cars or funds to the cause
By now, lots of people have learned about Middleton’s selfless contributions to his community. As a result, people have offered to donate almost 800 cars to his cause.
Middleton’s sister is helping him organize the large response to his story, which also includes more than $100,000 in cash donations, according to
Lisa Steuer McArdle is an insurance writer with over 15 years of experience writing and editing content in a variety of industries, including insurance and personal finance. Lisa specializes in taking deep dives into make and model-specific content that helps car owners and buyers make solid money-saving choices. Lisa has written over 350 articles for Jerry on topics including electric vehicles to classic cars. Before joining Jerry, Lisa worked in various aspects of the printing industry as a content writer, developer, and editor and earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Lycoming College.