August 31, 2021 by Cathy Stack
Reliable used cars are hard to find — and expensive. This makes life difficult for individuals and families who cannot afford a vehicle and reside in rural areas where public transportation is sparse. They have limited options of where and how they can travel. When their car breaks down, they often find themselves unable to afford a new one right away. They then must depend on others for travel. They lack the freedom to visit relatives, go on job interviews, attend medical appointments or church services — and sometimes even get to work.
“There is no public transportation, nor Ubers or taxis,” said Eliot, describing his South Carolina community.
Eliot has provided the welcoming surprise of a new set of wheels to dozens of grateful neighbors in such trying circumstances. His mission is to help those who are seeking better opportunities but find that a lack of reliable transportation holds them back. He said his community is filled with good, hard-working people often forgotten by society.
“They can't walk 40, 50, 60 miles to great jobs — they have to settle for small-end jobs that pay well below what they need to survive,” he noted.
Eliot started his purposeful mission after the sudden death of his beloved father, Kevin Wayne Middleton Sr. For 17 years, Eliot worked alongside his father in his mechanic shop. He pondered how to find a way to incorporate his father’s love of cars and helping others. The inspiration for his charitable work came one day when his restaurant participated in a local food drive. He was distraught when he saw long lines of people still waiting past the scheduled time. He spoke to people on the line and discovered that most were delayed because they had walked miles as they were without a car.
That moment was a turning point in Eliot’s life. He made the decision to actively give his time and skills to help his community. With his sister Desiree, he started a foundation named Middleton’s Village to Village to address the need and encourage car owners to consider donating their vehicles before junking them. The car repair cost comes from either his own pocket or from fundraising.
The new car owners receive the car, keys and title, all with no strings attached. When Eliot gifts the vehicles to strangers, they are overwhelmed by his generosity. His recipients welcome him with grateful tears and hugs.
“Some folks don’t even believe it. They say, ‘That’s not my car,’” Eliot said with a laugh.
“This is a lifesaver,” said one thrilled recipient, a single mom.
Eliot does not consider the time spent on fixing cars a sacrifice. He said aiding others has helped him with the healing process after losing his father. “It makes me feel like he’s right there. It’s helping me as much as it’s helping them.”
Middleton’s Village to Village was awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award for public service, which honors public and private citizens who show “the power of service to others in bringing out the greatness that lies within us all.”
Eliot’s thriving nonprofit has expanded since his story went viral. He received an explosion of donations, including funds and more than 800 cars. He now has a staff and a team of mechanics and volunteers. He plans to continue fixing cars and transforming lives one car at a time.
PassItOn and Foundation For A Better Life believe Eliot Middleton is a true hero. His action is a great example of the value of charity. He is giving those in need the freedom to move forward with the next chapter in their lives. Please help us honor him by sharing his heartwarming story.
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