Joe Sevart Helps Turn Lives Around
Joe Sevart, the owner of I-70 Auto Service in Kansas City, Mo, is thankful for the success he enjoys. So grateful that he feels it's his duty to "give back." And he's doing just that ... in an unusual way.
You see, Joe is trying to help people just out of prison. Trying to give them a second chance. Trying to get them on the road to being good citizens, living productive lives.
Virtually all of the ex-convicts he helps come from impoverished backgrounds. They've made some mistakes, but they've paid their debt to society. And they recognize that they need to turn their lives around, to get on the right path.
They need a job and a chance to start a career. But in these tough economic times, even those with the best resumes are having a tough time landing a job. So imagine how tough it is if you're just out of prison.
That's where Joe comes in.
Through a program called "Connections to Success," he is volunteering his time to help people determine if maybe a career in the automotive industry is for them.
He has just completed an eight-week-long class for the first of them. They completed a two-hour, twice-a-week course in which they learned the basics of things like operating a lift, vehicle inspections, fluid inspections and oil changes. Half their time was spent in the classroom, half in doing hands-on work in the shop.
Their past was never a topic of discussion. "I had no idea why they had been incarcerated, and I wanted to stay out of that," says Joe. "We just concentrated on what we were doing and what we're preparing for tomorrow."
He found them to be well- mannered, respectful and eager to learn. "They were here because they wanted to be," says Joe.
One woman and five men started the course. One soon decided a career in automotive service and repair just wasn't for him and another one got a job that conflicted with his attending the sessions. But four completed the course. Hopefully, some will pursue a career in the automotive industry.
"Most of all, I hope we help them transition back into life so they won't return to prison," says Joe. "I believe they deserve a second chance."
Joe says the experience won't be a one-time deal for him. In fact, a second class will start this month.
"I've been blessed," says Joe, "and if I can help someone who wants to change their life, the least I can do is give up some of my time."
Joe's blessings include being part of a family business that his father started. His father, Tom Sevart, who these days leaves running the business to Joe, still helps out. And Joe's brother, Tom Jr., is the alignment technician. Joe's son, Matt, did work there but now writes for Parts & People magazine.
What makes I-70 Auto Service stand out, says Joe, is the fact that it will pick up and deliver a customer's vehicle. His father takes care of that for them, says Joe. "We have some doctor and lawyer customers who never see the shop. Many of our customers are especially busy people and they appreciate that service."
Joe started working for his father in 1976 when he was 14. He's only 47 years old now, but he has 33 years' automotive experience.
His father purchased the business, originally a Getty gas station with three bays, in 1979 after having leased it for three years.
The original 2,000-square-foot shop was expanded in 1983, incorporating high ceilings that allowed the shop to work on light- and medium-duty vehicles.
Pursuing additional fleet business and becoming a NAPA Auto Care Center has helped it grow.
What does the future hold for I-70 Auto Service? Joe plans to continue to grow the business and possibly pass it on to his son.
Meantime, he's concentrating on building the business and developing ongoing relationships with customers based on trust.
And, "giving back" to the community through participation in programs such as "Connections to Success."
Editor's note: For more information on "Connections to Success," visit www.connectionstosuccess.org or call Brad Lambert, a co-founder of the program, at (314) 333-4497. The program's goal is to "break the cycle of poverty one family at a time."
Name of Shop: I-70 Auto Service
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