OMAHA — An Omaha church hopes to put a new twist on “church service” by opening an auto repair shop serving poor people.
Brookside Church applied for city approval to set up the shop on church property near Interstate 80 and L Street.
Church volunteers would work in the shop and provide discounted services such as brake jobs, oil changes, troubleshooting and maintenance.
The church would charge nothing for labor and only 50% of their cost for parts, according to plans submitted to the Omaha Planning Department.
The plans say the church would also receive donated cars, which would be repaired and then given away or sold to support the costs of the operation.
The shop would not be open to the public. Instead, the shop would take referrals from schools and other agencies that serve under-resourced populations.
Unreliable transportation becomes “crippling” for low-income families who are not near city bus lines and can’t afford expensive repair bills, lead pastor Jeff Dart explained in a letter to city planners.
“Lack of transportation quickly leads to loss of employment for adults and excessive school absences for kids,” he wrote.
Brookside’s request, which received a favorable recommendation from the Omaha Planning Board, asks to rezone about 22 acres of the existing church and parking lot site and grant the church a conditional use permit to allow for the auto repair shop. The church also proposes to build an addition to the church for a food pantry.
The pantry would serve members of the congregation and the community who are experiencing food insecurity.
Not only are some members of the congregation experiencing food insecurity, but the Food Bank for the Heartland is eager to have more west Omaha pantry partners, he wrote.
Schools near the church have seen growing rates of students qualifying for free and reduced-price school lunches and take-home weekend food packs, he wrote.
The pantry would offer foods that are fresh, shelf-stable, dairy or frozen.
“We are a religious organization,” Dart wrote, “and these services to our community are a part of living out our faith as we give our church attendees an opportunity to serve and to build relationships with those in need around us.”
The project will further expand the church’s commitment to caring for and establishing relationships with the community, said church spokesman Rob Hockney.
“We began first with a clothing care center for kids in foster care and who are under-resourced,” Hockney said. “We’ve served many kids over the past five years through our clothing care center, but we are now excited to offer a more expansive experience.”
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