(Pictured from left to right: Comprehensive Connections Vocational Director, Melissa Learned, Executive Director, Debbie Holsapple, and Car Wash Manager, Jamie Dodson)
Providing a quality service to the public while helping those with disabilities gain life skills and a better sense of self-worth. That’s what the staff at Comprehensive Connections say Car Care Connections is all about. Opening in 2016, the unique car wash in Mt. Vernon hires clients of Comprehensive Connections who have various disabilities. The non-profit agency offers professional supportive services for those with mental disabilities, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and the elderly community. They also offer a day treatment program, workshop setting and provide job coaches for clients. Their car wash provides an outlet where clients can improve and recover.
1200 Veterans Memorial Drive
Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Executive Director, Debbie Holsapple, and Vocational Director, Melissa Learned, brainstormed the idea of a car wash after seeing examples of similar endeavors. “I had been watching some ads and documentaries on individuals who are autistic that are working in car washes. I talked with Melissa and she had the experience. We worked together and found this place and remodeled it”, Debbie explained.
All the clients that work at Car Care Connections have a type of disability from mild mental retardation to autism to physical aggression. Staying busy in a social setting has decreased some of these behaviors in clients over time and allows them to feel a greater part of the community. By working at the car wash, clients feel that they are contributing to the Mt. Vernon area and in turn, it heightens their self-worth. “It gives them interaction with individuals they would not normally interact with.”, Debbie comments.
In addition to car wash services, Car Care Connections offers full detailing. They have several packages that include vacuum, shampooing, wax, window cleaning, and more. The full detail is said to be their most popular service. With offering so many service options, Car Care Connections is ideal for the elderly or others who can no longer work on their car themselves. “For a little bit more than what they’re driving through the car wash, they can get a spruce up here”, Debbie notes. Customers have been very impressed with the service they’ve received at Car Care Connections. One customer’s comment included, “This looks like it came off the showroom!” Tips are collected from customers throughout the year and given to employees at Christmas, as a special bonus. This generosity gives clients a chance to buy presents for their family members, when they may not have been able to otherwise. Car Care Connections provides a positive workplace environment where clients are known to sing along to the radio while they work.
In the future, Car Care Connections wishes to hire more of the clients they serve as there is currently a waitlist. The staff of Comprehensive Connections would like to see trained employees take the skills they’ve learned at the car wash, into an independent shop or store out in the community.
Comprehensive Connections is very grateful for the support from the Mt. Vernon community. “They have opened their arms to us and just brought us in like family”, Melissa remarked. Instead of saying they work at Comprehensive Connections, clients can exclaim that they are a car detailer. “They don’t see themselves as a workshop client. They see themselves as a car detailer’s employee.”, Melissa explained.
Executive Director, Debbie Holsapple shared the news that the empty lot next to Car Care Connections will someday soon house a new senior center. Clients are now being trained and once built, they will serve seniors at the center through waitressing, cleaning, and janitorial work. One client, who is blind, knows he will already be hired as a lunch time piano player. Seniors can come to the center for a meal, be assisted with senior services, and then bring their car over to Car Care to get washed or detailed. A new campaign will roll out the first of the year to begin fundraising for the center. Those who wish to give can do so by sending a check to Comprehensive Connections or visiting their website HERE.
The mission of Comprehensive Connections is to connect you with the help that you need. Car Care Connections is just another way they serve the residents of the Mt. Vernon community. Next time your vehicle needs a little sprucing, consider visiting Car Care Connections! Their hours are Mon.- Fri. 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Visit their website and Facebook page for more information.