Chanel Crawford arrived in Arizona six months ago from Michigan to care for her parents who were dealing with medical issues.
She had two jobs lined up but during the first week that she settled in at her parents’ Phoenix home, the offers fell through.
“They said I was no longer needed,” the mother of two recalled. “I was having trouble finding work and having trouble with transportation. I drove here from Michigan and my car broke down and I couldn’t fix it because I couldn’t afford to fix it because I had no job.”
Having no car meant she couldn’t take her parents to their medical appointments.
Although her parents’ health insurance provided for transportation to see their doctors, that proved unreliable.
“They offered you rides but they would never pick us up on time or forget to come and pick us up,” Crawford said. “We were having trouble getting back and forth.”
And to top it off, she said she had to pull her 12-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter out of school and home-school them so they wouldn’t fall behind. There’s no school bus transportation for where she lives so she was driving her kids to school, Crawford said.
Things seemed dire for Crawford until Randy Maestre stepped in.
Maestre, the owner of a Christian Brothers Automotive franchise at 1618 N. Higley Road, Gilbert, recently gifted Crawford a 2004 Toyota Corolla.
Maestre learned of Crawford’s story after Dr. Jeannine Hinds reached out to him.
Hinds, a family-medicine physician whose side passion is a mobile healthcare clinic she created to serve the homeless, veterans and at-risk youths, goes to the same church in Tempe as Crawford.
“Dr. Hinds told me she has job opportunities but the only thing holding her up was no vehicle,” Maestre said.
Maestre said he purchased the used Toyota, paid his technician and got special pricing from his vendors to repair the vehicle.
Hinds was out with Crawford celebrating her daughter’s birthday when she made the pretense of having to stop by Christian Brothers for an oil change.
While Crawford and her children sat inside the shop, Maestre approached her and began asking her questions such as how she liked Arizona and if she ever toured an auto shop before.
When she said no, Maestre proceeded to take her and the children around the shop and into the back room, where a birthday cake for her daughter was waiting.
“My daughter, she was so happy,” Crawford said.
She recalled Maestre telling her, “we are not done yet” as he took her out the back door.
There, Maestre presented Crawford the car.
“He said, ‘We heard about your struggles and what you are trying to do for your parents and not being able to find work and how difficult it was for you guys to get around and I would love to bless you,’” Crawford said. “I cried and asked if it was really mine.”
Crawford said she was beyond surprised and was having difficulty breathing at first.
“It was a shock,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they were giving me a car for free.
“I have never in my life encountered someone whether they knew me or not, especially a stranger doing something out of the kindness of their heart without any strings attached just because they heard I had a hard time.
“I’ve always worked for everything I had so I felt weird a few days after. I expected a call, saying ‘you have to bring it back.’ I felt like I was on a TV show. This is something that happens in movies, not real life, not my life.”
The car, equipped with new tires, has been working out great, Crawford said.
She was able to get her kids back in school and her parents to their appointments. Her mother is due for surgery soon.
“I’m not use to hand-outs,” said Crawford, who added she can actually get to a job interview without having to wait for the bus. “I didn’t know those types of people existed.”
Crawford was the fourth and latest recipient of a vehicle from Maestre since he opened his shop in 2018.
Other recipients, who all happened to be single moms, included a teacher who commuted to school on a bus and a woman who lost everything after she went through a divorce.
“Every six months I am able to bless a family,” the Gilbert resident said. “This is my personal goal for the shop way before I opened. I’ve realized all these blessings are not given to us so we can keep it but are given to us so we can pass it on to someone else.”
Maestre’s walk down this path began five years ago when he lived in Texas. He moved to Gilbert in December 2017.
“In 2015 something really bad happened to me,” he said. “I lost my livelihood of 11 years, it almost took my life. I lost almost everything. But my wife stood beside me and prayed for me.”
Maestre, who was a physical therapist by trade, said he decided to put his life in God’s hands.
“I surrender to the Lord,” he said. “And almost all the worry, anger and frustration in my life were cured.”
He said one night, Christian Brothers Automotive popped up on his laptop without him having to search for it, which he believed was a sign from God.
He went to interview with the company officials and they asked if he was willing to wait two to six years before opening a franchise. The wait was less than six.
“Looking back I understand why I had to wait 2.5 years because that was God’s way of molding me to who I am today,” Maestre said. “That is why my faith is so strong that whatever life brings, I will always be OK.
“That is what we tell families we blessed, ‘Don’t give up. I’ve been through what you’ve been going through. Stay faithful, stay obedient and He will answer your prayers.’
“I stood with Him, I followed His light and it led me to my shop today.”
Maestre said all he wanted with the franchise was a simple oil and lube shop but instead God blessed him with a nine-bay, full-service repair shop.
“The business literally saved my life,” he said. “He didn’t give me the business just to have a business. He gave me a business so I can bless people like He blessed me.”
Maestre also partners with Midwest Food Bank in Gilbert during National Service Day in October by offering free oil changes and minor repairs to single parents and low-income families referred by churches sand nonprofits.
The food bank hands out boxes of meals for a week to the recipients during the event, according to Maestre.
Currently, the shop has two vehicles donated by customers who heard about what Maestre was doing.
He said he was having them checked mechanically if they can be repaired for gifting.
He said he doesn’t have anyone to give the cars to yet but that he trusted God to lead the person who needed one to his shop.
“There’ll always be somebody that God leads here and there’s always going to be a car we are able to repair and give back to that family,” he said.
“I see that giving them a car that we’ve repaired is a symbol to them, an encouragement for them. Look at the broken car that is repaired like their lives are.”