Rolling Start

Rolling Start member Ed Jettinghoff cleans a headlight and Steven Honbarger works on the engine of a Toyota the group is refurbishing to donate to an individual in need of a car. Rolling Start works with several Jackson County agencies to identify those in need. They’ve repaired and donated three cars so far.

They described their first donated car, an aging Dodge Durango, as an albatross. It sits mangled in the driveway almost a year later, but the men of Rolling Start have not given up on it. They are determined to get it on the road with someone who needs a car behind the wheel.

Calling themselves Rolling Start, the men who gather at the home of Cliff Faull in Sylva have been getting together weekly for the past 20 years to work on cars. The 15 members started Rolling Start by putting $5 in a can every week to donate to local charities and just recently started using this money to fix up cars for people who otherwise could not afford one.

“About a year ago we thought instead of just working on our own cars, what if we fix some cars up for people who need them,” Faull said.

The crew has taken on a wide variety of repairs of the six vehicles to date, ranging from tasks of transmission installation, complete repainting, replacing brake pads and upholstering seats.

Three cars have already been fixed and given to people needing transportation, and they are looking to fix more.

“We try to make the cars safe, reliable and respectable,” Faull said. “Where if someone gets the vehicle, we’ll feel good about them driving it with safety considered above everything else.”

Transportation is difficult in a mountain town like Sylva, and that is where Rolling Start hopes to help individuals get around when the public transit can’t meet all these needs, Rolling Start member Gene Robinson said.

They partner with Webster Enterprises, Clean Slate, Mountain Projects and Circles of Hope to find recipients for the refurbished vehicles.

Rolling Start Auxiliary, a committee comprised of local retired human service personnel and the heads of the four organizations, established an application and disclaimer process. Applicants must apply through one of the organizations to be considered for a renovated car, Robinson said.

Key to qualifying for one of the cars is evidence of a commitment to the betterment of their future.

“We don’t want to give the car to just anyone,” Robinson said. “We want to establish someone who has some investment in their rehabilitation process or their interest in bettering themselves.”

Robinson said the current application system works well in finding the right fit for a car.

“So far it has been a very good process and we feel like if we continue to follow this course we will be very successful in getting the car to the people who really need the car,” he said.

There is also no financial obligation to receive the car, just a pass-it-along act of kindness.

“We just ask that the people who receive the car, when life gets better for them, that they help somebody else,” Robinson said.

Currently, their only financial support comes from the insider donations and a recent donation of $1,000 from the classic car show group, Cherokee Rodders.

To complete a car, the cost ranges from $1,500 to $1,800. They need additional partners to help with parts and financial costs, Faull said.

Rolling Start is currently working on two to three cars at a time but is always looking for their next car to start on.

Recently, Rolling Start has become incorporated so that they can apply to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

People wanting a tax write-off for donating cars to the organization can donate the title through one of the partnering organizations.

If interested in donating a car, parts or monetary donations, or applying to receive a car, individuals can contact for more information on the process.

“We don’t know where the next car is going to come from, but it’ll show up,” Faull said.

Jenkins is an intern at The Sylva Herald.