Grand Forks nonprofit helps veterans through auto repairs
By AUSTIN ASHLOCK | Grand Forks Herald | Published: August 5, 2013
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In a garage along the busy street of North Washington Street in Grand Forks, Larry Mendivil Jr. is working on miracles.
An Air Force veteran of nearly seven years, Mendivil came back from eight deployments in the Middle East in 2007 looking to make a difference in the lives of his comrades.
“When I got out of the Air Force I saw a lot of veterans struggling to get help from the government,” Mendivil said. “That was something I could relate to.”
His answer: Miracles for Vets, a nonprofit organization that repairs and customizes cars for veterans and struggling families at a low hourly fee.
Mendivil began Miracles for Vets in October 2012 and has relied on volunteers and donations to keep the charity going.
“Every day we learn more,” Mendivil said. “I like to keep it to minor auto repair, but now we have more help and once we get a shop we should be able to do more.”
Miracles for Vets specializes in small repairs such as tune-ups and brakes.
Since forming, Mendivil and his team of 10 volunteers have helped out more than 50 veterans and families.
After returning from stints overseas, Mendivil said, much like the veterans he helps out, he found that things were not easy at first.
“I struggled a long time until Veterans Affairs was able to help me out,” Mendivil said. “I was actually homeless for a little while.”
Now, Mendivil said he no longer looks back on his first months outside the Air Force with sorrow, instead he replaces it with his cause.
“I believe every veteran, even if they are disabled, can do something to help out their fellow veterans,” he said.
Even the injuries he sustained during a refueling accident during his time in the Air Force and motorcycle accidents, Mendivil said he works until his body cannot any longer.
“And that is why having these volunteers has been such a blessing,” Mendivil said. “They are why I haven’t given up, this is something we all believe in and we keep it going together.”
With several experienced professional mechanics who volunteer their off-time to Miracle for Vets, Mendivil said his team is more than ready for the work at hand.
Mendivil has had help outside of the garage as well, organization Vice President Mark Fredrick of Grand Forks has helped spread the organization’s name.
“When I first met (Mendivil) and he told me about this nonprofit, I thought it couldn’t be real,” Fredrick said. “It seemed too good, but it was real, and I was immediately on board and ready to do anything. It’s a cause worth working for.”
The organization, which is 10 months old, is operating out of a garage at Mendivil’s home, but Mendivil said the charity is on its way to expanding.
To do that, Mendivil is looking to donors and raising money to purchase a new shop, along with tools and resources.
“Once we have that, we can start doing more, better work,” he said. “A new air compressor, wrenches and a sand blasting cabinet wouldn’t hurt either.”
Getting the Miracle for Vets name out in the public is another goal Mendivil has for the nonprofit.
Mendivil and Fredrick have gone as far as going door to door to get the Miracles for Vets name out into the public.
“We need a lot more support,” Fredrick said. “But we are making a difference.”
Mendivil said the organization also will help veterans in more ways than just auto repair. Pending approval, Miracles for Vets will be looking to give rides to veterans and coordinate veteran barbecues.
Interested donors and repair applicants can visit www.miraclesforvets.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.