October 22, 2021
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Meet the man who spends his free time fixing old cars and donating them to people in need

When Eliot Middleton was a little boy, he followed his father around everywhere, watching the talented mechanic carefully fix car after car.

Less than a year after his death, Middleton, 38, now a restaurant owner, is honoring his father’s legacy by fixing junk cars and donating them to people throughout rural South Carolina, where public transportation is sparse.

To get the cars, he trades a plate of ribs from his restaurant, Middleton’s Village BBQ, to anyone willing to part with a broken-down vehicle.

Middleton also launched an online fundraising campaign to support the project.

“You don’t have a car, you don’t have a career. How will people who have no reliable buses, no Ubers, travel to the city, where they would be able to find bigger jobs at the port authorities or manufacturing centers?” Middleton told CNN. “They can’t walk 40, 50, 60 miles to great jobs — they have to settle for small-end jobs that pay well below what they need to survive.”

So far, he’s collected 100 cars and surprised 33 community members with a repaired ride — without asking for a single thing in return.

“Giving someone a car can change all that, and it does change all that,” he said. “I want to help everybody looking to better themselves when transportation is what’s holding them back.”.

Middleton said the idea to gift vehicles to people in need came to him in November 2019, when he organized a food drive to distribute 250 boxes of his barbeque.

Eliot Middleton is a mechanic-turned-restaurateur in rural South Carolina.

Eliot Middleton is a mechanic-turned-restaurateur in rural South Carolina.

When he ran out of boxes, he walked outside to see how many people were still waiting for food and saw a line two blocks long.

“That’s when I noticed most of those people just started walking back to the other side of town,” he said. “I caught up with some of them and found out they had walked three or four miles to get there to receive food, but couldn’t make it in time because they had no cars and they had to walk. I was very distraught to see that.”

“That was the turning point in my life when I made the decision to actively give my time and skills to give back to my community.”

‘He’s a special kind of godsend’

Melanie Lee remembers spending four months driving her 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe hours back and forth to visit her son, who was lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

One week after burying him in November 2020, Lee’s car, worn out from all the road miles, broke down, leaving her unable to visit the children her son left behind.

“When it broke down, I broke down,” Lee, 59, told CNN. “Now I don’t have my baby, now I don’t have transportation. How am I supposed to stay active in my grandchildren’s lives? How do I do anything?”

Without reliable transportation, Lee said she couldn’t even go to the grocery store or church.

Middleton heard Lee’s story from her nephew Frank McClary, the mayor of Andrews, and decided to offer her one of his cars.

A few weeks later, on Christmas morning, Lee’s family gently ushered her to the door, where she saw Middleton pull into her driveway with a white 1993 Oldsmobile.

Middleton, right, with Melanie Lee, middle, and her nephew Frank McClary, the mayor of Andrews, South Carolina, after Middleton surprised Lee with a car.

“I was so overwhelmed,” Lee said. “Like, who does that? Who comes on Christmas morning, gives you a car, gives you the keys, gives you the title, no strings attached? I felt like I won, and I had never won anything in my life before.”

After lots of tears, hugs, and thank-you’s, Lee felt a little bit more ready to start the next chapter in her life.

“I got my freedom back,” she said. “Eliot is a godsend. He’s a special kind of godsend. What Eliot is doing is purposeful. That car to me is a real true blessing

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Meet the man who spends his free time fixing old cars and donating them to people in need

When Eliot Middleton was a little boy, he followed his father around everywhere, watching the talented mechanic carefully fix car after car.

Less than a year after his death, Middleton, 38, now a restaurant owner, is honoring his father’s legacy by fixing junk cars and donating them to people throughout rural South Carolina, where public transportation is sparse.

To get the cars, he trades a plate of ribs from his restaurant, Middleton’s Village BBQ, to anyone willing to part with a broken-down vehicle.

Middleton also launched an online fundraising campaign to support the project.

“You don’t have a car, you don’t have a career. How will people who have no reliable buses, no Ubers, travel to the city, where they would be able to find bigger jobs at the port authorities or manufacturing centers?” Middleton told CNN. “They can’t walk 40, 50, 60 miles to great jobs — they have to settle for small-end jobs that pay well below what they need to survive.”

So far, he’s collected 100 cars and surprised 33 community members with a repaired ride — without asking for a single thing in return.

“Giving someone a car can change all that, and it does change all that,” he said. “I want to help everybody looking to better themselves when transportation is what’s holding them back.”.

Middleton said the idea to gift vehicles to people in need came to him in November 2019, when he organized a food drive to distribute 250 boxes of his barbeque.

Eliot Middleton is a mechanic-turned-restaurateur in rural South Carolina.

Eliot Middleton is a mechanic-turned-restaurateur in rural South Carolina.

When he ran out of boxes, he walked outside to see how many people were still waiting for food and saw a line two blocks long.

“That’s when I noticed most of those people just started walking back to the other side of town,” he said. “I caught up with some of them and found out they had walked three or four miles to get there to receive food, but couldn’t make it in time because they had no cars and they had to walk. I was very distraught to see that.”

“That was the turning point in my life when I made the decision to actively give my time and skills to give back to my community.”

‘He’s a special kind of godsend’

Melanie Lee remembers spending four months driving her 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe hours back and forth to visit her son, who was lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

One week after burying him in November 2020, Lee’s car, worn out from all the road miles, broke down, leaving her unable to visit the children her son left behind.

“When it broke down, I broke down,” Lee, 59, told CNN. “Now I don’t have my baby, now I don’t have transportation. How am I supposed to stay active in my grandchildren’s lives? How do I do anything?”

Without reliable transportation, Lee said she couldn’t even go to the grocery store or church.

Middleton heard Lee’s story from her nephew Frank McClary, the mayor of Andrews, and decided to offer her one of his cars.

A few weeks later, on Christmas morning, Lee’s family gently ushered her to the door, where she saw Middleton pull into her driveway with a white 1993 Oldsmobile.

Middleton, right, with Melanie Lee, middle, and her nephew Frank McClary, the mayor of Andrews, South Carolina, after Middleton surprised Lee with a car.

“I was so overwhelmed,” Lee said. “Like, who does that? Who comes on Christmas morning, gives you a car, gives you the keys, gives you the title, no strings attached? I felt like I won, and I had never won anything in my life before.”

After lots of tears, hugs, and thank-you’s, Lee felt a little bit more ready to start the next chapter in her life.

“I got my freedom back,” she said. “Eliot is a godsend. He’s a special kind of godsend. What Eliot is doing is purposeful. That car to me is a real true blessing

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