Last year on Christmas Day, Eliot Middleton showed up unannounced at the home of Melanie Lee in Andrews, S.C., with a 1993 Oldsmobile.
Middleton, who she had never met before, placed the car keys in Lee’s hand. He didn’t charge her anything.
The 59-year-old Lee said she had no idea what was going on. She said he just gave her the keys without asking for anything in return.
Lee is one of the 33 people that Middleton has gifted with a car. Here’s why.
This Former Mechanic Who Donates Cars to People in Need
Middleton is a 38-year-old who owns a restaurant and a former auto mechanic who spends his free time fixing used cars and giving them to those in need from the area of rural South Carolina.
Middleton emphasizes that there’s a lack of transportation in the rural parts and he knew that his previous experience in mechanics could help.
Few weeks before Middleton brought the car to Lee’s house, her 33-year-old son who was sick for several years passed away. She had to drive daily for two hours to and from the hospital in Charleston when she visited him
Eventually, her Chevrolet Tahoe from 2007 broke down. She took it to the car shop to fix the transmission, but she couldn’t afford it.
She was in need of a car that would help her with the care of her two granddaughters (one is 12 and the other is 6) when picking them up from school and taking them to dance rehearsals.
Lee says of her refurbished car she got from Middleton that it means everything and that she needed it so much.
What Was Middleton’s Inspiration for this Kind Project?
The idea behind the project of fixing and donating old cars came to Middleton spontaneously in early 2020. It happened after he hosted one food drive and several families came without transportation. Some of them had to walk more than four miles to get a warm meal.
So, in a Facebook post, he called out the locals to donate junk cars. He also pledged to trade slabs of his specialty, barbecued ribs, in exchange for old cars.
As transportation is a big problem in the area, in many situations, cars are the only way to get to doctors’, work, and shopping centers.
Unfortunately, this area is without public transportation. Middleton lives in McClellan Ville, a small fishing town located on the Atlantic coast with a population of around 600, and they have no Ubers or taxis so, without a car, they can’t get around.
This is why Middleton, the co-owner of Middleton & Maker Village BBQ, a restaurant in the neighboring town of Awendaw, S.C. decided to use his mechanic skills when he’s not in the restaurant and help out.
Until now, around 100 cars have been donated to Middleton for fixing up. At one point, he had 57 cars in his yard. Some of the cars need simpler fixes like changing the tires or the oil; however, others need a total overhaul.
When the car is in a bad shape, he harvests it for the parts to repurpose them.