Here at Big Al's Auto Repair we love to give back to our community! One of the ways we do this is with our annual Christmas van give away. Here's how it works. We partner with a community organization each year and we find a family (families) who could use a hand up. With an out pouring of community support. We get a hold of a van or vans through purchase or donation, and we fill it with groceries and gifts for the family (families). If you would like to help out and donate, we would love you hear from you. Please call us at the shop and we can give you any information you might need to help us make a difference in our community. Our number is 403-381-8288.
A little history....
The first year we gave away one Christmas van. We had encountered a family that had just moved to Canada from Europe in search of a better life, but they were having some car troubles. We helped them out as best we could but knew that their car was not long for this world in the condition it was in. We got it fixed up so that it was safe, however we knew that it would let them down. Closer to the end of the year it had happened... The car was failing them and was going to leave them stranded in the near future. We decided that this wonderful family needed something to better suit their needs. We found someone selling a used van with fairly low kilometers and decided that we would buy it and give it to them for Christmas. We told some of our family and friends about what we were doing and every person we would tell wanted to donate something to it. Soon we had a van full of groceries and gift cards for gas and presents for each member of the family. We got them to come to the shop as a family and surprised them with the Christmas van.
The next year we decided that we would partner with an organization in the community that was already trying to help families get ahead. We asked them if they had any families that could really use a van and all the stuff that came along with it. The answer they gave was this... "we've narrowed it down to 2 families but we can't decide which one, so here is a little bio about each family.... you choose one". We couldn't choose, so we did both! We started looking for donations and vans. We were starting to get a little worried when we couldn't find a van that would suit our needs and then like knights in shining armour arrived LA towing and salvage. A local towing company that blew our minds by donating 2 vans to us. After that we hit social media and the support from the community was truly amazing to watch. On Dec 15, 2016 we surprised one family in the morning and one in the afternoon with their very own Christmas van.
2017's van giveaway's were everything we dreamed they would be. One family came to us through a community organization and we were going to leave it at one this year. Life had different plans for us. We had just finished basic preparations for the first van, when a single mom entered our lives that was so deserving we couldn't help but find another vehicle for her as well. Some of our customers may recognize that the second vehicle we gave away was our shuttle vehicle. We found another shuttle so we could give the old one away. It was perfect. If you had told us how much the community here in Lethbridge would rally behind this project, we might not have believed you. The community here in Lethbridge is second to none. The support that we felt and the joy in giving that came from so many was overwhelming. 2 more vans found grateful and loving homes, and we couldn't be happier about it.
2018 was amazing!
2018 Christmas vans went spectacular! 2 more families in our community received vans filled with gifts, gift cards and groceries. Both families came to us through a great community organization, and we were so happy to partner with them this year. Lethbridge has some truly awe inspiring organizations within the community. Every year we are so happy to see such a large number of people in the community giving back in some way.
2019 was great!!!
This year we only did one van, because we could only find one van with enough time to get it ready to be a Christmas van. As some of you know we are in the middle of an expansion of our shop. This took up a lot of time and energy in the lead up to Christmas this year. That being said, it was incredible just to be able to focus and pour all our love into one family, and one van this year.
The support from our community was once again overwhelming. It is incredible to watch donations come in, and know that they are going to help a family that really needs it.
As our Christmas van project grows, it is getting harder to surprise families. This year, as soon as our contact person pulled up to the shop, the mom knew exactly what was going on, she had seen our project on social media. Luckily she didn't know that her family was getting it until they were outside. We love our community and we will continue to give back until we can't anymore.
Where do we go from here?
We keep giving back, because we love it. The reason we originally chose to give away a van, is because it combined the things we are truly passionate about. Repairing vehicles and helping people in our community along the way. Lots of people and families are having a hard time right now, and while we can't help them all maybe we can help a few and inspire more people in our community to find their own way to give back.
The following 4 videos are each a part of a 4 part video series that we made documenting our journey so far. Special thanks to Media Mountain for helping us to make them. The 4th video is all about the lead up to 2017's Christmas van give away.
Donations come from all different kinds of sources every year and 2018 was no different. Our families are always behind us as well as some of our customers and other businesses in the community, that believe in what we are doing with this project. We realized last year with all the excitement that we didn't really get a lot of good pictures. This year our friend Jeff Hinman of Jeff Hinman Photography helped us out with some amazing pictures, on short notice. Ususally Becky enlists some help and does the shopping, but this year I (Shawn) got to go help. The response from the cashiers at the grocery store when you explain what you are doing with 2 huge carts full of stuff is amazing. Every year we are made more confident that this is something we will continue to do for years to come.
2020 was weird, but awesome!!
2020 had a lot of ups and downs, both for us here at Big Al's, but also in the world. COVID was the thing that none of us could escape. We started looking for a van in August and in the beginning of November we still didn't have one. After several pleas on facebook we decided that we just couldn't give away a van this year. Then just as we were about to change how we were going to help a family this year, some people we know really came through. We got a van in the middle of November and we got to work. We got it all fixed up and donations started to pour in. We had a new community partner again this year that nominated a family, and even though there were no hugs and we had to social distance as much as possible, it was amazing. An amazing single mom with 5 kids and grandbaby, got a van filled with love and community support. Watching this project continue to help families in our community every year is an amazing testament to everyone who helps to make it possible. From the bottom of our hearts... thank you.