Half the reason the Union Gospel Mission operates a used car lot and service center in Spokane Valley is to help cover the cost of its many service programs in Spokane and Kootenai counties.
UGM Motors, at 7219 E. Sprague Ave., sits amid the Valley’s large concentration of auto dealerships and generates a profit of $125,000 per year for the charity, said Phil Altmeyer, executive director of the mission.
But its other purpose is to give people like Ashlee Milenewicz a way to build a resume and get a good job.
Milenewicz, a 23-year-old single mother in Spokane, spent six months recently working as service intern at UGM Motors.
The job paid the state minimum wage, but it also gave her a chance to learn the business.
“Before that internship, I had no experience with automotive service work,” Milenewicz said.
The job gave her the confidence and experience to land a similar job as service writer/scheduler at Camp BMW in Spokane.
The new job pays enough that she can easily afford an apartment for herself and her 7-month-old daughter.
Her next goal is to finish college and open her own automotive restoration shop, Milenewicz said.
“Ashlee’s awesome,” said Jim Stroh, general manager of UGM Motors. “She really has an attitude and feeling for this business. I know she’ll have her own shop someday.”
Stroh and others with UGM say the nonprofit’s recent purchase of a vacant car dealership next to theirs will enable them to help more people looking to build job skills in the auto sales or repair business.
The purchase of the former First Choice Auto Sales lot will allow UGM Motors to accept more donated cars and expand the space devoted to servicing other people’s autos.
“We were really outgrowing the building and service areas we’ve had there,” Altmeyer said.
After First Choice closed its doors last year, UGM began talking with the bank that held the deed to the First Choice property on Sprague.
“AmericanWest partnered with us in a big way,” Altmeyer said. Terms of the two-year purchase contract were not disclosed.
UGM Motors moved about four years ago into its current spot, after four and half years at a cramped lot it shared with a UGM thrift shop.
Today the sales and service lot has a full-time staff of nine. It also brings on interns and trainees who are paid and learn skills that can help them find permanent work. They typically work three to six months, and most are trained in service writing, like Milenewicz, or building maintenance or auto detailing. Some also do tire repairs and rotation.
The sales lot has roughly 60 used vehicles and boats for sale, all of them donated by individuals or businesses.
Another 110 vehicles are “in process” – going through repairs and being priced for eventual sale.
After repairs and cleanup, the vehicles for sale range from a prime-condition 2012 Dodge Journey priced at $21,500 to fixer-uppers priced around $500.
The interns and trainees don’t work on cars brought there for servicing.
Customers looking to buy a vehicle at UGM Motors get detailed reports on the car or truck’s condition and the amount of work done to make it roadworthy, Stroh said.
UGM Motors has three full-time, certified repair technicians. Two of them are assigned to repairing and restoring the vehicles worth selling; the third tech provides the basic maintenance the business offers to customers.
Rates vary from $30 oil changes to $75 transmission flushes.
Some donated vehicles can’t be repaired. “We end up taking about 10 percent of (the donated vehicles) to a parts yard or another business that will take them,” Stroh said.