Samaritan Car Care Clinic scales up Covington operation to help low-income drivers

In December, the clutch went out on Tashiba Shorter’s vehicle. With her car sidelined, the Newport resident couldn’t get around as a recruiter for the Brighton Center’s Center for Employment Training.

A colleague referred the single mother to Samaritan Car Care Clinic for an assessment. The diagnosis was not good. “The cost of the repairs was higher than the value of the car,” Shorter says.

“In turn, they referred me over to St. Vincent de Paul to get on a list for a donated vehicle,” Shorter says. By taking out a $2,500 microloan, she was in line for a new car. She had to wait two months. So Shorter and her son walked during winter to get to work and school.

She credits Samaritan Car Care Clinic, especially director Bruce Kintner, for his kindness in getting her back on the road. “He's forever helped me in a tremendous way,” she says, now driving a 2011 Honda Odyssey.

In 2007, the pastor at Kintner’s church, Madison Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Covington, planted the seed of an idea for some kind of garage to help single, low-income moms. The Rev. Chinna M. Simon told Kintner in 2007: “You’re mechanical. Figure it out.”

Kintner brought decades of experience in corporate banking to try and turn this dream into a reality. He enlisted Dave Brownfield of Walther Auto Body Service as the first of seven garages to repair cars of Samaritan Car Care Clinic’s referred clients. The referrals came from social services agencies such as Life Learning Center, Welcome House, Brighton Center and the Women’s Crisis Center, now known as Ion Center for Violence Prevention.

In the early days, Kintner and fellow volunteers pooled resources. “We were incredibly fortunate that Valvoline Oil has donated the oil that we have used for 16 years,” he says. “So, the money that I would raise or kick in (with donations from family or friends) would go toward oil filters and air filters and wiper blades and bulbs. But we had no money for repairs until we began getting a little bit of traction.”

The assembly line began moving significantly in 2015 for an actual car care clinic. Heftier donations started coming in from the Butler Foundation and the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation. Eventually the Greater Cincinnati Foundation would join as a funder. By 2019, Corporex chairman Bill Butler and brother Marty Butler, who by then headed Samaritan’s board, wanted to meet with Kintner.

“What they wanted to do was figure out a way to expand this all-volunteer thing that I’d gotten going back in 2007. Because they, like me, recognized that access to affordable, reliable transportation is such a huge barrier for low-income families particularly the single moms that we target,” Kintner says.

“The Butler Foundation was not willing to give up this dream of how we expand this car care clinic into a standalone nonprofit,” he says. Therefore, on Jan. 13, 2020, it acquired an IRS letter of determination as a 501c3 nonprofit. “That’s our birthdate,” he says. The designation allowed Kintner to apply for grants.

A challenge grant was issued by the Butler Foundation. The R.C. Durr Foundation and the Haile Foundation responded, leading to scaling up the car care clinic concept. After 34 years at PNC Bank, Kintner resigned his bank job and became full-time director of Samaritan Car Care Clinic.

In 2021, “We helped 227 low-income families with car repairs,” says Kintner. By 2022, relying on its network of garages, Samaritan helped 315 families, 70% of whom were led by single moms.
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“We have to turn down requests for help,” Kintner says, “because I don’t have the funding. But we do the best we can.”

The assembly line is close to the finish. The dream is only days away.

April 19 was another red-letter day. It was the open house for freestanding Samaritan Car Care Clinic, built on a lot donated by Corporex. Marty Butler, who also sits on the board of the Catalytic Fund. led the way to receipt of a construction loan. The new facility is at the corner of Madison Avenue and Martin Street. An actual opening is expected in mid-May after the clinic receives its final certificate of occupancy. The all-important lifts, which will facilitate mechanics working underneath the cars, were installed last week.

The all-important lifts, which will facilitate mechanics working underneath the cars, were installed last week.To staff the car care clinic, Kintner is merging with an independent auto repair shop, A-N-D Auto, run by Jim Dennis of Elsmere, using what he terms a “social enterprise model” that will boost staffing. It will be a blend of full-pay customers and partial-pay clients referred by 10 social service agencies.

Kintner is excited to add mechanic Nicolas Villarroel through a co-op with Gateway Community and Technical College. More collaborations with Gateway are expected. Marty Butler, who remains Samaritan’s board chair, says he is “excited about the clinic’s new facilities as they will provide a solid long-term home for the clinic to serve many for years to come.”

He says Kintner’s empathy for clients served by the clinic is unrivaled. “It was that passion and compassion that initially drew the Butler Foundation to support the clinic’s efforts and to ultimately ask Bruce if the clinic would consider scaling up its efforts for the clients that it has historically served.”

According to Butler, who also chairs the Butler Foundation, “A dependable vehicle allows our clients to maintain employment and to transport their families to and from work, doctor’s appointments, school, church, and you name it. It provides a sense of security and dignity and allows them to fully participate in the community in which they live.”

The car clinic is winning praise from community leaders and the state. In April it received a $100,000 grant from the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Grants. Last week, it won recognition from the NKY Chamber of Commerce.

“I want to congratulate and salute Community Car Care Clinic as the nonprofit winner of this year’s NKY Chamber Business Impact Awards,” says Nancy A. Spivey, the chamber’s vice president of talent strategies.

“Community Car Care Clinic is making a life-altering difference in the lives of those who struggle to get to and from work. The incredible service they are providing will have a lasting impact on our region’s talent pipeline and our ability to continue to prosper,” she says.

Spivey points out that the car clinic’s work is right in line with what NKY Chamber members want. Among results in a recent survey:
  • The top three concerns for businesses: finding skilled talent, the overall economy, and retaining talent.
  • The top three barriers to getting employees back to work are: affordable/available childcare, mental health, and transportation.
Samaritan Car Care Clinic answers a pastor’s directive, helps fulfill a community need, and works toward achieving regional economic development.

Kintner, a strategic thinker, gives clients a one-page sheet detailing important dates for auto maintenance. He hopes to organize monthly classes on fundamentals of car maintenance at the new shop.

Shorter, the single mom whose clutch went out in December, says she has color-coded the future maintenance dates on the list Kintner gave her.

“Samaritan Car Clinic now is one of the agencies that I will forever hold dear to my heart,” she says.
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Read more articles by Nancy Daly.

Nancy Daly is a veteran Kentucky and Cincinnati journalist. An "Army brat" who found a home in Kentucky, she is a University of Kentucky graduate. Her hobbies include reading, photography, watching streaming TV, including "Succession" and "Andor," and playing Alphabet Game on Zoom with five siblings across the globe.