South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need

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South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need
South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

People from a small town in South Carolina are thankful to be driving their own cars again, and it’s all thanks to an unsung hero – a restaurant owner who fixes cars in his spare time – for free.

38-year-old, Eliot Middleton, of McClellanville, SC, is a smalltown entrepreneur who owns and operates Middleton & Maker Village BBQ restaurant.

Eliot Middleton owner and operator of Middleton & Maker Village BBQ.
Eliot Middleton owner and operator of Middleton & Maker Village BBQ. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

While working a Thanksgiving food drive in 2019, Middleton discovered that many of the people who had come for food, had walked several miles to get there. Many left the food drive with nothing, simply because they didn’t arrive at the event in time before the food supply ran out.

Eliot Middleton fixing a donated car to give to someone in need.
Eliot Middleton fixing a donated car to give to someone in need. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

Noticing the immediate need for his community to have reliable transportation, Middleton decided to take action. Middleton’s father was a mechanic, and since he was fixing cars from an early age, he decided to leverage this skill set to give back to his community.

Eliot Middleton's father who taught him the skill set of being a mechanic.
Eliot Middleton’s father who taught him the skill set of being a mechanic. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

“If you don’t have a car to use in rural areas there’s nothing you can do,” Middleton said.

“Transportation is key in these areas. I want the small guys [in] the areas that everybody forgets about to be comfortable. It’s nothing special. It’s just being able to have the everyday necessitates.”

Middleton used social media to request donations of old cars from the local community. And to his surprise, the community answered the first post with over a hundred cars.

South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need.
South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

With cars piling up, Middleton started storing them in his backyard, and true to his word, he began working to repair them in his spare time.

Using various parts from the donated cars, Middleton was able to donate his first car in September 2020.

It Takes a Village

Since that time, he has donated 33 cars to locals in need of transportation. Each person receiving a donated car has been nominated by a friend or neighbor via social media. Each recipient has been completely surprised when they receive their car.

South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need.
South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

“To know that I’m helping to change lives … that’s a reward in itself,” Middleton said. “It’s a feeling that, you know, no money, no acknowledgement or anything can put that inside your soul.”

Middleton organized an online fund-raising event to assist with the expenses of repairing the cars, and since its launch, he raised over $125,000.

South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need.
South Carolina restaurant owner spends free time fixing old cars and then donates them to people in need. Courtesy of Eliot Middleton.

He also gave his mission a name; Middleton Village to Village Foundation. He hopes to one day move his repair operation to larger facilities and expand his mission to the rest of South Carolina.

“If you can just fix one problem to somebody it gives them hope,” Middleton said. “Don’t think it won’t affect someone in a great way. Because the small things is what adds up. So just do whatever you can.”


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