One of Southwest Florida's oldest repair facilities has been offering free labor to immediate family members (spouse, children) of active military personnel stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan for more than two years now.
DeHays Automobile at 17617 Broadway Ave., near Beach Bowl on San Carlos Boulevard, is an Operation Open Arms member. Owner Larry DeHays, a Vietnam veteran, recently made good on his membership pact by taking care of two such family members at his repair shop.
With Army serviceman Grant George deployed overseas in Afghanistan, Cape Coral resident Faith George, Grant's mother, brought in his 1995 Chevrolet Caprice to get worked on. Her other son, Sterling, who recently came back from his assignment overseas, also had work done on his 2002 Chevrolet Malibu. Both vehicles needed roughly a week's worth of attention. Faith said the family found out about the DeHays Automotive service deal on Pine Island based OOA's website.
Cape Coral resident Faith George, left, and son Sterling saved money with free labor at DeHays Automotive at 17617 Broadway Ave. near Beach Bowl on San Carlos Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach. DeHays has been offering free labor to immediate family members (spouse, children) of active military personnel stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan for more than two years now through Pine Island based Operation Open Arms.
"Grant was looking at the website while on his way home for a two-week leave," she said.
The two brothers were stationed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina when they decided to take one of the serviced vehicles back to Southwest Florida.
"Grant actually drove this car home for Christmas break. The car broke down then. When he went to leave to go back north, the 'tranny' went out in Arcadia," said Faith. "He was able to drive it back but was forced to take a rental car. His car has been sitting ever since, so we were trying to get it running before he came back down."
That's where DeHays Auto stepped in. The repair shop gave close to $850 worth of free labor on the Caprice alone. Work involved Freon, fan belt, oil, transmission fluid, fuel filters, belt work, fuel pump, diagnostic work, A/C checkup and a replaced used transmission. The parts and total bill was just under $300.
"They've been really helpful and cooperative," said Faith.
When asked what he thought about the free labor deal on his own car, Sterling was effusive.
"It's outstanding and awesome," said Sterling. At the time, his free service bill was unavailable.
DeHays first began giving free labor to OOA-qualified personnel in May 2009. He stated DeHays Automobile is here to help.
"We like to take care of the family members of these servicemen and women who are gone overseas and at risk. They hardly have any money to get by with while their loved ones are away. I will do what I can to help them out," said DeHays.
After spending five years in the Navy, the Vietnam vet decided to pitch in.
"I kind of know what it's like to come back and not get a really good reception," he said. "I wanted to do something about the reception our service people get when they return."
DeHays extended his OOA benefit to the largest, most active nonprofit organization on Fort Myers Beach as well. His team supplied free labor to the van of the Community Emergency Response Team before three members of the Beach Fire Control District drove the vehicle up to New York to pick up World Trade Center artifacts.
"They all do enough for the fire department," said Dehays, who mentioned he usually gives a certain discount to fire officials. "They asked if I would like to help bring the memorial down to the Beach."
While parts to fix the Ford van totaled $175, the free labor, which included a rear brake job, left wheel tire and tail lamp repair was estimated to be $150.