Years ago, Amanda Mills was driving her kids to football practice when her car broke down on the side of the road. As a mother putting herself through nursing school, bad car luck was the last thing she needed.
“My car broke down on the side of the highway and I was in tears,” Mills said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Luckily for Mills, her friend Mia Potter recommended that she visit Samaritan Car Care Clinic in Covington, a nonprofit specializing in providing low-income Northern Kentucky residents with routine car maintenance.
Last April, Samaritan Car Care broke ground on new, permanent location at the corner of Martin Street and Madison Avenue. Today, they unveiled their new garage to the public.
“What we at the Samaritan Car Care Clinic do is actually pretty straightforward,” said Samaritan founder and director Bruce Kinter. “What we do is we address transportation barriers that low income families face on their path to self sufficiency.”
The land to build the facility was donated by Corporex, a real estate development company based in Covington, while the construction was financed by The Catalytic Fund.
Kinter founded the nonprofit in 2007 as an all-volunteer program that offered basic maintenance to low income families and individuals. Since the clinic’s founding, they have completed over 1,000 oil changes. In 2022 alone, they served 315 families.
He got the idea from his church minister, Chinna Simon, who preaches at Madison Avenue Christian Church. Simon mentioned to Kinter that he routinely encountered single mothers who attended the church’s community dinners who couldn’t get to work due to being unable to afford general car maintenance.
“We have these low income single moms who are coming out to the church’s community meals,” said Kinter, paraphrasing what Simon told him in the past. “Now most of them don’t have cars, but many do. The ones who do come they are trying to choose between rent and groceries. They don’t even have money for an oil change.”
Wanting to help, Kinter contacted David Brownfield, the owner of Walther Autobody. Brownfield allowed Kinter to operate Samaritan out of his garage which it has done for the past 16 years.
Local nonprofits such as the Women’s Crisis Center, Life Learning Center, Brighton Center, ion Center and Welcome House got involved by spreading the word.
Samaritan offers services like changing engine oil, replacing air filters, wiper blades, lightbulbs, topping off fluids, inflating tires and other general car repairs. In addition to offering low cost maintenance services, Samaritan partnered with Gateway Community and Technical College to create a co-op for students.
In 2019, the Butler Foundation asked Kinter if Samaritan could increase their scope of service. Up for the challenge, Kinter took them up on their offer.
“The Butler Foundation asked Bruce Kinter in 2019 if Samaritan Car Care would consider ramping up the scope of its services in order to help stabilize the lives of his clients by providing dependable transportation on their road to self sufficiency and the means to get to and from their jobs,” said Marty Butler, board director of Samaritan.
Car service for low income families and individuals is a critical service. Oftentimes, having a reliable vehicle can be a critical variable on whether an individual can make it work or not. Besides the TANK bussing system, there is no other form of cheap public transpiration in Northern Kentucky.
17.33% of working adults in the 41011 zip code, where the garage is located, have no access to a vehicle, according to the Northern Kentucky Atlas. In contrast, 70.67% of workers in the same zip code drive alone to work.
The problem was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as laid off workers in the local hospitality industry were forced to take up different jobs to make ends meet. Those who turned to gig economy jobs such as DoorDash put more wear and tear on their vehicles. As an effect, the demand for Samaritan’s services increased.
“We all need transportation. Not everybody can catch the bus. Not everybody can walk to the bus stop,” Mills said. “It’s such a blessing that we have people that have out of the box thinking.”