After working a long shift at a restaurant, most people want to collapse on the couch at the end of the day. But Eliot Middleton doesn’t do that.
Instead, the McClellanville, South Carolina, restaurant owner picks up his tool kit and heads out to his front yard, where he works on one of the many junk cars resting there.
On his days off, Eliot replaces, repairs, and salvages auto parts from donated vehicles. He learned how to fix cars as a teenager when his dad gave him two that needed major repairs as soon as he got his driver’s license. He was tasked with taking the good parts from both vehicles and creating one safe, reliable ride. He did it, and the project left him with a lifelong appreciation for auto repair!
Eliot studied and worked as an auto mechanic for years after high school, but in 2020, he purchased a barbecue restaurant in Awendaw just days before the novel coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to shut down. Instead of panicking, he focused on takeout and outdoor dining to keep his new business, Middleton’s Village BBQ, afloat.
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He also looked around his community for ways to help others. He donated meals to essential workers and those affected by natural disasters, fed students and teachers for free, and handed out Thanksgiving groceries to the hungry.
“It’s all about sharing what you have,” Eliot said. “That’s what the world should be about. Helping people, that’s just what I like doing.”
No matter how busy he gets at the restaurant, he never loses sight of his passion project. He has collected about 90 donated cars, which he keeps at his home and at friends’ properties nearby. He has already refurbished 28 of them so he could give them away to struggling families in his community!
At the end of the day, he still loves the feeling of fixing something and changing someone’s life using his skills.
“This gives me a chance to work on cars again, at my own pace,” he said. “There are 28 families out there whose lives totally changed just because I did what I know how to do.”
Eliot saw results from his labor of love right away. He donated the first car he fixed up to the mother of a child with a disability, as she needed a vehicle to go to the hospital regularly. The freedom that comes with transportation enabled her to finally get a job and make positive changes in her family’s life!
Since then, Eliot has started a nonprofit called Middleton’s Village To Village. Its mission is simple: “We repair donated cars to donate to families in need!”
A GoFundMe established to help him with the costs of the program has collected over $112,000 so far, and the initiative continues to gain momentum.
Eliot has become a well-respected member of his community. Mayor Frank McClary described him as “an awesome guy,” adding, “He has a heart big as this world. When he comes down to cook, he also gives things away. He really wants to serve those underprivileged areas. You don’t find that often.”
For Eliot, seeing people succeed is the ultimate reward for his hard work.
“It’s a feeling that I get doing it,” he said. “Best feeling in the world.”
Having a car is an immense privilege, and Eliot is making sure that access is spread around to those who need it most!
Share this story to thank Eliot for always going the extra mile to help others.
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