She was raising her grandchildren. One had leukemia. But she didn't have a car to transport the little one to treatments.
"We gave her a Suburban," Butch O'Neal said quietly.
He gets it. He's a father and a grandfather.
In the past five years, Glade Church in Mt. Juliet has given away more than 85 cars to people who truly needed them. To get to work, to get their kids to school, to go to the doctor and to simply move from point A to point B and live life.
It's not a "given" these days to have a set of wheels. But it is a given that one health scare, the loss of a major income and even a couple months default and those wheels are gone, and it's downhill.
"Automotive Ministry" is not a fancy term, but it says it all. Glade Church Pastor Michael Eubanks said the outreach was started five years ago when two of his parishioners with mechanic experience expressed a desire to donate their experience and simply bring old, donated cars back to life and change lives.
"We thought of single mothers, out of work fathers, the elderly," he said. "We wanted to somehow help people long term and not just have a Band-Aid.
"We are giving away four cars this week, and the list is long," Eubanks said.
Mark Sullivan picked up his car. He had a grin a mile wide and said "the car is purring like a kitten."
Eubanks said they match the cars up to the people and require a certificate of insurance from the recipient. There's an obvious qualification process.
O'Neal and Doe Dayton head up the ministry, with lots of help from other volunteers and the church. They were working out of a 15-foot-by-30-foot building in back of the church, but the church has since built a much larger building.
"It can hold four cars," said O'Neal.
Last year they gave away about 25 cars, a value of over $60,000.
"It's wonderful to know we can change lives," O'Neal said. "We like to glorify God and be good Samaritans. We know and can understand peoples' situations. It's super rewarding."
O'Neal and Dayton probably spend about 20 hours a week on the ministry. Offically, they work a couple hours every Monday night fixing up the cars. Dayton, 64, knows what its like to need and to do without. He grew up in East Tennessee in a "family with no money." He's got an automotive shop in Nashville and has been in the business 43 years.
"I couldn't afford to have anyone work on my cars, so I learned to do it myself," he said.
He said the ministry was born when the church would take up donations to buy someone a used car.
"We thought, maybe we could get donated cars and fix them up and help more people," he said.
Dayton noted on purpose they don't know too many of the recipients because "we like to stay in the backseat and just do our work." However, he mentioned one recipient who was a local high school senior whose mom had cancer and the family was down on their luck.
"He loved to work on cars and came to help us out," Dayton recalled. "He had to sell his own truck to pay the family's electric bill."
The young man ended up working on a truck unbeknownst to him that would eventually be given to him for a graduation present.
"It's stuff like that, that's what keeps this ministry alive," Dayton said quietly.
And the ministry is flourishing. They say it's full circle. Those who donate cars know they've made a difference, recipients are able to get back on their feet and car mechanic volunteers flourish with the knowledge they've given a gift otherwise unattainable.
Dayton said he was told recently he perhaps needed to recharge and refresh.
"I said the places I'm most happy are in the mechanic's shop at church and at my Nashville business," he said with a laugh. "We get so much satisfaction and joy."
Anyone interested in donating a used vehicle to the ministry or looking for more information about the program, call (615) 444-9550.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.