When Sharon and Gene Ward’s van started making strange noises, the Virginia couple panicked.
“Our car started to sound like a million crickets chirping," Sharon says. "We had taken it to a place down in Manassas and we told the person we are on a limited income. He told us it was going to be over $300 to fix it.”
That presented a major problem for the couple since they use the vehicle for more than transportation; it is also their home.
Because they're too sick to work, the Wards receive unemployment payments from the government. They've been living in their van since losing their low-rent apartment in September.
“You don’t have a place to take a shower," Sharon says. "You don’t have a place to wash your clothes. You've got to only carry a certain amount of things with you. When the cold temperatures come and the snow, you just don’t know what to do.”
“I try to make sure that we always have gas so we can run the motor for heat,” Gene says.
That’s where W.D. Wiygul’s Automotive Clinic comes in. He offers minor repairs, for free, to people like the Wards.
“We have had folks come in that are in their middle ages and they were successful bankers," Wiygul says. "Now they maybe cannot afford a battery for their car. We fix their car.”
The family-owned business has four locations in northern Virginia and was founded by Wiygul’s grandfather more than 40 years ago.
“We’re not here for the glory or to promote our business," Wiygul says. "We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do. This is our little way to try to kick-start our community economy.”
The Wards drove right over when they heard about Wiygul’s offer on the radio. The belt tensioner turned out to be the source of the loud noise.
“They even polished our headlights, gave us the remote control to their TV here and let us watch their TV and have something to drink,” Sharon says.
And that's not all. Wiygul also called a local interfaith group which helped the couple find temporary shelter.
“I’ll always be grateful to him because as things turned around," Sharon says, "there is hope.”
Wiygul hopes other small businesses will follow his lead in giving back to the community. He's proud to be not only getting cars back on the road, but also helping people get back on their feet.