When Angie Angerman’s 12-year-old Dodge Magnum died last year, it wasn’t just a hassle and financial hit. It was a disaster, upending everything in her precariously balanced life.

As a single mother of two, who works part-time while juggling classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, she couldn’t come even close to paying $1,000 to get the car back on the road.

“It was a nightmare,” she said.

She was forced to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get her 2 1/2-year-old daughter to day care by 8 a.m. The journey entailed a trip from her Rincon Valley bus stop to the Downtown Transit Mall, where she would then have to wait an hour for a county bus to get her to the day care. She would then have to wait another 45 minutes for a bus that would get her to Santa Rosa Junior College. She would have to do it in reverse at the end of the day.

Weekends were even worse. She had to get to her job as assistant manager for a storage facility on Sebastopol Road but also get her daughter to a day care downtown, with fewer buses running. She found herself frequently walking and losing weight.

“I was spending four to six hours on the bus every day. I’m grateful for public transit, but it’s hard to do anything when you’re a parent and you’ve got to work and go to school to survive,” she said. “I felt like I was doing all this work and I couldn’t get a break.”

But relief came when a counselor at CalWORKS, which oversees a welfare to work program for single parents at Santa Rosa Junior College, told her about a little-known auto shop on Santa Rosa Avenue that repairs cars for free for single mothers working hard to pull themselves out of poverty.

For the past year, SAL Auto has operated largely under the radar. It is the brainchild of Matthew Nalywaiko, a 35-year-old Santa Rosa man who for the past eight years has dedicated his entrepreneurship to help others. In 2009, he founded a local nonprofit he called Serve a Little, which marshaled an army of professional tradesmen, mechanics and skilled handymen, to help low-income single mothers and military wives with home and auto repairs. The organization also took donated cars and refurbished them for needy moms.

“We were spread very thin being an all-volunteer organization. We leaned toward the greatest need and the greatest need was automotive repair, particularly for single moms,” said Nalywaiko,

Without working wheels a young mom barely making ends meet can’t get kids to school and day care, to jobs, medical appointments and college classes to lift themselves out of poverty. So he shifted gears and set about figuring out how to keep more struggling mothers mobile.

He put together a business plan for his vision of a nonprofit car repair shop, that would use the proceeds from full-paying clients to subsidize free repair work for qualifying single moms. A man in commercial real estate who Nalywaiko met in a yoga class heard about the project and offered to buy a building and lease it back to the non-profit at a huge discount to get the shop going. Then a whole village of benefactors stepped forward to renovate a former motorcycle shop on Santa Rosa Avenue into an enviable auto shop stocked with professional tools, lifts and four bays.

SAL is a full service auto repair shop, open to the public. On the outside, it doesn’t look any different than any other car repair shop. But on the walls inside are the painted words, “We Keep Single Mothers Moving Forward.”

“There was a study done, and it takes about three hours to go less than 20 miles anywhere in Sonoma County. If you think of a single mom who is trying to go to school, trying to get her kids to school, do the grocery shopping, run the errands and go to work, all on a bus, that just makes your long day even longer,” Nalywaiko said. “And these moms who are on the social service side of it have these vehicles that are just barely running. And most of the time when those cars die they just won’t be able to afford to fix them.”

Angerman said when she picked up her car from SAL, fully operational and at no charge, she was completely overcome.

“I started crying. They had just saved my life” she said. “Here I was feeling this despair, almost hopelessness, and then this amazing act of kindness.”

At the moment SAL works exclusively through the CalWORKS program at Santa Rosa Junior College and the YWCA, agencies equipped to screen potential recipients. So far the shop has been able to do several free repair jobs a month. As paying business increases, they are hoping to hire more mechanics to add to the one full-time and one part-time mechanic already on staff, giving them the ability to serve even more needy mothers. SAL is equipped to do most all types of repair work on every make of vehicle, as well as routine maintenance required of manufacturer’s warranties.

“Ultimately we would love to have 10 to 15 cars a week coming through here for single moms,” Nalywaiko said.

Amy Ethington, who oversees CalWORKS program at Santa Rosa Junior College, said success for students under her program hinges on transportation. If they can’t get to class, their benefits are in jeopardy.

“It can really change their whole approach to education. If you can’t get here, the anxiety goes through the roof for our students. The expense alone to maintain a vehicle can be astronomical. To our students who are parenting and going to school with a very fixed budget, thinking about the expense of car repairs on top of that is frightening.”

When Nalywaiko started investigating the idea, he was unable to find any comparable model in the country. Many mechanics will do some pro bono work. And there are organizations that donate cars, like Santa Rosa’s Crozat Family Foundation, which provides free cars to needy people who have “hit a pothole in the road of life,” as they say. But Nalywaiko could not find any shop in the country that was run by the same model, with paying customers subsidizing the charity work.

Nalywaiko at first didn’t get a lot of encouragement from accountants that he consulted. It was the CFO for Visiquate, the Santa Rosa company that Nalywaiko works for doing video production and marketing, who figured it out, based on his years of experience in nonprofit work.

Visiquate has supported his work for years, paying him essentially a full-time salary for part-time work, which gives him the time to run SAL Auto.

His teammate in life and on the job is wife Amanda, who runs the office. She brings a unique set of skills. She has a master’s degree in social work and has been a social worker for both the county and the YWCA, so she knows the turf from a social service standpoint. Her office is equipped with baby gear for their daughter Kadence, 8 months, who comes to work with mom and dad. The pair met when Amanda volunteered with Serve a Little.

“I’ve always had a passion for this work. But having Kadence really puts things in perspective,” she said. “I see how hard it to is raise her with a partner. Some of our women have families or close friends to help but sometimes they’re just on their own.”

The pair share a passion for helping others. They both laugh that their couple quarrels are always heated exchanges over the best ways to serve.’

It took a large team of volunteers, benefactors, and in-kind donors to transform the space into a full-service auto repair shop.

“We ended up doing the entire remodel for under $100,000,” said Nalywaiko, which for a shop this size is completely unheard of.”

Northern Pacific Power Systems donated 52 solar panels and the electrical work. MKM & Associates of Santa Rosa donated their services for the structural engineering. Nunley Engineering of Santa Rosa pulled together a team of companies to provide the asphalt and gravel.

Many of the professionals and businesses that help make it happen are friends of Nalywaiko, or connected in some way.

“People want to help. They want to give,” he said. “They just need the opportunity.”

A key player is chief mechanic Bill Paterson, who ran his own shop for more than 30 years a few doors down. He had long volunteered for the old Serve a Little. When the organization shifted to auto repair only, he closed down his business and rolled his tool cases over to SAL, bringing loyal customers with him. Paterson has a soft spot for single mothers. His own mom raised three kids on her own and when he met his wife years ago, she was a single mother with two toddlers.

He believes giving back is what we’re meant to do in life.

He recalls one single mom who was staying in the battered women’s shelter with her two kids, trying to get on her feet.. She was just getting ready to start a new job with her alternator blew and the car died.

“It was about a $400 repair. When she came in to pick up her car and we gave her the copy of the work order for her records she said, ‘Well how much do I owe you?’ I said ‘Serve a Little paid for the whole thing.’ She just broke down in tears and gave me a hug.”

Paterson said the cars that come in for pro bono work are typically old and very run down. Routine maintenance takes a backseat to rent, utilities and food. Once Paterson gets a car running, he gets the owner on a maintenance schedule to keep it going. SAL continues to accept used cars and refurbishes them for need moms.

Nalywaiko, who struggled with dyslexia and ADD growing up, wondered as a young man how he would ever find a place in the world. Now he feels comfortable that he has found his calling.

He also works with a service project he created, “80 for Haiti,” which raised money to build schools the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It takes $80,000 to build a school for 400 students. Nalywaiko provides the support and oversight team but hires locals to do the work, providing them income and skills-building.

He also did volunteer work in hospitals and orphanages in India and helped build houses in Mexico.

“I saw how much of the world lives and I couldn’t just go back to a regular 9 to 5 job,” he said. “We have a responsibility, once we recognize there is a need, to give back to it.”

He said his favorite quote is from Martin Luther King, Jr: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” It has become his credo.

“It’s really wanting to live a life of more meaning and purpose than myself,” he said. “And you don’t have to travel to other countries to do mission work to help people. The needs are right here, in our own community.”


Patrice Banks is the genius entrepreneur who is also the owner of Girls Auto Clinic in Philadelphia, PA. In response to a national problem of women being taking advantage of at many auto repair shops owned by men, Patrice launched her company to give women a better and more comfortable experience.

A new approach

Unlike traditional shops that often rip off their female customers, the staff at Girls Auto Clinic take time to go over each step with their customers. They also host free monthly workshops teaching simple, straightforward lessons and tips on car maintenance.

But here’s what really makes them unique: While waiting for their car to get serviced, there is an on-site beauty parlor where customers can get their hair and nails done!

Coming up with the idea

Patrice says that she once got ripped off at an auto repair shop, and immediately recognized what happened to her a potential business opportunity. She quit her job as an engineer, took night classes to become an auto mechanic, and then opened up her own shop with other “auto gals”.

Currently, only 2% of all auto mechanics in the United States are women.

Satisfied customers

“I want to see more of these types of auto shops,” said one customer.

“It’s fabulous,” said another customer. “It’s the best combination to get my nails done while waiting for my car!”

For more details about the company, visit www.girlsautoclinic.com or visit their location at:

Girls Auto Clinic
7425 West Chester Pike
Upper Darby, PA 19082

Watch their story below on NBC Nightly News:


Auto repairs can be intimidating if you have no prior experience with the topic. Luckily, this advice can give you a head start. Reading this article is a start to auto repair wisdom, which will help to save money.

Make sure you get quality parts to fix your car. You can usually get better prices if you get used parts from a junk yard but there is no way of knowing how long these parts will last. Do not hesitate to spend more on brand new parts that come with a guarantee.

Ask all the questions you have at the shop. You can use this time to tell them about the problems you have and to get answers as to what needs to be done. Preventative measures will save you a whole lot of money in the long run.

Schedule yourself extra time for free checkups, especially if you are going in on a weekend. No matter how early you get in, there are only so many bays in the garage. That means that your car may have to wait for a few paying clients before it gets looked at.

Read the manual for your car and make notes of important pages. When you visit a car shop, mechanics will need to know particular information about your car. You can find the information you need to know in your owner’s manual.

Always keep records each time your car is repaired. Whenever another issue crops up, it is most helpful for your technician to take a look at this document. If you don’t have these records, you could pay lots more money and it can be harder to figure out where the issues is.

Do not make the mistake of having someone fix your vehicle just because the amount they charge is cheaper than everyone else. Many times the low prices make up for the lack in quality work. Doing research on the repair shop in question will help you decide if that is the case here.

If you need new tires, do not get used ones from a garage or a junk yard. Used tires are not a good choice since they might be worn thin or have already been patched. Brand new tires are expensive but they are a good investment and will help you remain safe.

Don’t get sucked into to the lure of aftermarket parts for new cars. You want your baby to run as well as possible for as long as possible, and that means spending the extra to get parts that match the ones already in your car. Trying to get that clunker to run just a few more miles? Save the money and take the aftermarket versions.

Rotate your car tires every 6,000 miles or at every other oil change. Rotating your tires on a set schedule helps ensure that they wear evenly, and thus last longer. Your car will also be easier to drive, as unbalanced tires can lead to the car pulling to one side or the other.

Make sure that your technician has the proper certification. Particularly, make sure they are approved by the NIAE and other licensing boards. This will tell you if they are properly trained and will provide you with quality service.

If you cannot afford to get your vehicle fixed, get in touch with local vocational schools that train mechanics. You pay a greatly reduced rate for the repairs in return for allowing students to work on your car while under the supervision of a licensed mechanic.

Prior to allowing an auto repair shop to fix your car, get a written estimate of how much everything will cost. While the actual total may vary, this will give you some idea of what to expect. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. It is important to be knowledgeable when it comes to what is happening with your car.

When you take your car to an auto repair shop, try to have a good description of the problem. Just telling the mechanic the car is screwed up won’t help him or her to solve the problem. Provide details. You should know how long the problem has existed and when it occurs. Note whether or not dashboard warning lights are illuminated. Describe any sounds, smells or vibrations that accompany the problem.

When it comes to the brakes on your car,the last thing you want to do is to let it go. Pay attention immediately to any unusual noise or change in pressure when you apply the brakes. The sooner you deal with the issue, the less severe it will be, saving you money as well alleviating safety concerns.

Learn to recognize potential problems before they happen. Learning this and the other tips here will help you get familiar with basic auto repair. Remember these tips when your car acts up!

If you own a car, you have probably been in need of a repair at some point. Finding the right repair shop or mechanic can be a nightmare. They are notoriously dishonest and often overcharge you for their work. Luckily, the following article has some great tips with regards to finding a great auto repair shop.

Do not take your car to the first mechanic you find. You need to do some research to find a reliable mechanic with fair prices. Ask your friends and family about the mechanics they have been to in the past and check the Internet to find reviews written by other customers.

When trying to get an estimate for the cost of your auto repairs, ask the technician how they calculate the cost. There are some shops that charge your a flat rate for parts and labors, but others will try and charge you a fee for each hour they spend fixing your car.

If your vehicle seems to be leaking fluids, start by replacing the gaskets and seals. The most common area for leaks is where different parts join together. You may not need an expensive repair if the leak stems from one of these easily replaceable areas. If the leak continues after replacement, you may have a more extensive leak.

Your car owners manual is actually a valuable guide to the workings of your car. That means that you should not trash it as soon as you leave the dealer. It can tell you everything from what that light on your dash means, to how to perform basic maintenance on your particular model.

The Automotive Service Excellence logo is a sign that you have found a good mechanic. Mechanics have to successfully pass an exam and maintain an excellent record to receive this logo. Not all good mechanics get this certification but you should still try finding a mechanic who is ASE certified.

Look for a good auto repair shop before you actually need auto repairs. This is all about being proactive. When you need them, it’s a major annoyance to have to spend a ton of time searching. It leads to you making poor choices due to the bad situation you’re already in. By choosing a repair shop prior, you can seriously consider your options.

Always research the reputation of any auto repair shop you are considering using to have your car serviced. If you are a AAA member, you can find a list of approved shops on their website. You can also download an app for your smartphone like Repairpal to view ratings for different repair shops.

Become educated on car-part classifications. There are new parts, refurbished parts, and salvaged parts. New parts are made solely to a manufacturer’s specifications. Rebuilt, reconditioned, and re-manufactured are parts which are restored and in good working condition. Salvage parts are used.

Do not fall prey to the notion that you have to get a tune-up at any specific time. Every car is different, and the manufacturer will indicate when you should bring the vehicle in to the shop. By following that schedule, your car is much more likely to run well.

Do not ignore unusual noises you hear when driving. Clunks, screeches, clicks and pings are usually caused by loose parts. Take your car to a trustworthy mechanic and describe the noise as best as you can. Your mechanic will probably replace or adjust the parts that were causing the noise.

Ask about the warranties associated with any new parts going into your car. Most new parts will include a warranty. If something goes wrong with that part after the repair, you’ll be covered for the replacement. Know how long the warranty is good for and if there are any stipulations tied to it.

When you take your car to an auto repair shop, try to have a good description of the problem. Just telling the mechanic the car is screwed up won’t help him or her to solve the problem. Provide details. You should know how long the problem has existed and when it occurs. Note whether or not dashboard warning lights are illuminated. Describe any sounds, smells or vibrations that accompany the problem.

Ask your auto repair shop for a list of fees before you allow any work to be done on your car. Inquire how much any replacement parts will cost and how long the repair is estimated to take so you know how many hours of labor you will be billed for.

Having read the article above, you should now have a better understanding of how to find a reputable repair shop. It can be a tough task to do, particularly with so many shady ones around. But if you just remember what you have learned here, your car will be in tip-top shape in not time.