Jeff Matt: Eleven Who Care winner

9:16 AM, Jan 25, 2012   |    comments
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HAM LAKE, Minn. -- Businessman Jeff Matt has been honored with a 2011 Eleven Who Care award for his work with an Anoka area charity.

Matt owns Victory Auto Service & Glass in Brooklyn Park, Ham Lake and Fridley. He regularly donates use of the shops to Free 2B!, an Anoka County non-profit that helps cash-strapped residents with repairs.

Community car care

"We've repaired over 3,000 cars of families who come in and say, 'I can't fix my car, I don't have the money,'" said Myles Engelstad, past president of Free2B!.

The group has also donated 800 cars to people who didn't have any reliable transportation.

"Without a car in Anoka County you can't get to work, you can't get to school. You're stuck," Myles added.

"I can get to work every day," said Pamela Rorman, a recipient of a free car in 2010. "God couldn't have blessed me anymore. It wouldn't have happened without Free2B!"

And the Free2B! folks say it couldn't happen without Jeff.

The payback plan

"Having these kinds of resources is critically important," Myles explained. "They have to have a place to work that's safe and has all the big heavy equipment."

Jeff says this kind of help was always part of his business plan.

"I felt like if God has opened up a door for me to start my own business that I would use that business to benefit those around the shop, in the neighborhood," Jeff explained.

So, two Saturdays every month, Jeff gives Free2B! full run of one of his shops. While car owners attend a financial workshop, volunteers are busy with the fixes needed to keep the cars on the road.

A half million dollars in help

"Not many businesses that would donate that much of their service time," Myles said.

According to one audit, Jeff's service donations translate into an in-kind contribution of more than $500,000 for Free2B!.  A total that surprised even Jeff, who is focused less on cost and more on community.

"It's just not about taking money from people and fixing their cars. It's trying to make a difference in each of the neighborhoods of our businesses," Jeff said.

And for an much as he gives, Jeff says he gets a lot in return.

"The best part is giving people the keys to their car. And seeing them sit down and realize that they are driving that car out of here. It's theirs," Jeff added.  "That makes it all worth it." 

Visit the Free2B! website for more information about the group's work.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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