New Program Helps Low-Income Car Owners

Hanover Co-op, LISTEN target basic auto repairs

When you have little money to spare, spending it carefully almost always means a bad outcome.

Upper Valley neighbors who strain to hang onto the lower rungs of the economic ladder juggle food costs, rent, child care, and car repairs stretching dollars that barely cover half that list. That is one of the stark realities of struggling to make ends meet; if there’s no money to pay for a critical need in the first place, it usually results in a worsening problem.

So, using a new voucher program called Co-op Car Connections, the Hanover Co-op’s auto service centers have begun performing basic, yet critical repairs for those in need. Typical repairs might include tires, brakes, oil changes, an inspection, a battery, or something as urgent as fixing a malfunctioning seatbelt.

With LISTEN Community Services acting as the go-between for those in need, the mechanics at the Co-op’s Hanover and Norwich auto service centers perform a variety of work and provide certain parts at little or no cost.

“Concern for community is a phrase that means a lot to us,” said Hanover Co-op General Manager Ed Fox. “Employees around our Co-op have a knack for spotting problems they can push back against or lend a helping hand on. This Car Connections idea came from our service center manager Jimmy Kidder and his teams. Using their professional skills to help low-income folks with car repairs is an ideal fit.”

The idea evolved into another collaboration between the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society and LISTEN. “Angie Zhang at LISTEN had a big role in this,” said Kidder. “She knew exactly how to put a framework around the opportunity and connect it to larger community issues.” Kidder added that he hopes the Co-op Car Connections program will inspire other auto service garages in the area to launch this sort of initiative.

LISTEN Executive Director Kyle Fisher said that the auto vouchers is another way that organization can address emergent needs of its clients. “Because we’re in close contact with people working hard to make ends meet, we often learn which basic necessities or vehicle problems may need extra attention.  We are so grateful to the Co-op for donating this kind of support in the Upper Valley.”

Angie Zhang, who will continue to oversee this new program, expects it to have profound impact, saying, “For car owners, the timing of expenses related to car repair are often out of their control. Safe and reliable transportation is a primary link for someone being able to go to work and care for their families. This makes an incredible difference in their lives.”

For Hanover Co-op auto technician Wesley Ulman and his fellow mechanics, the program is especially meaningful to them, too. Ulman said, “When you can use your skills and tools to make a difference is someone’s life, it’s bound to be a great day for everyone involved.” 

The Hanover Co-op has funded the establishment of this Car Connections program and encourages those interested to make direct contributions to LISTEN’s general operating fund at as the best way to assist with this effort and all LISTEN programs.  

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About Hanover Co-op Food Stores

The Hanover Co-op Food Stores—also known as the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society—is owned by more than 24,000 members. The Co-op seeks to build a well-nourished community cultivated through cooperation. From its founding in 1936 by 17 Dartmouth College professors and their spouses, the Hanover Co-op is now one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States. In recent years, this business has served more than 5,000 customers a day. For more than 85 years, this cooperative has stood by its founding commitment to buying locally produced food and goods. From locations in New Hampshire and Vermont, this consumer-owned business generates sales of $85 million annually from three grocery stores, a community market, and two auto service centers.