Saintly Work

Workers Persevere At Minnesota Facility



PHOTOS: SHREDDER SCHROEDER

After having to close its doors for nearly two years, St. Clair Recycled Auto Parts (formerly Northtown Auto) is being restored with the help of a staff who is familiar with what it takes to persevere.

Four part-time employees are still working diligently to clean and repair the Saint Clair, Minn. facility after it was broken into in February 2009. According to The Free Press in Mankato, Minn., a 21-year-old man admitted to the burglary and reached a plea deal for 10 different crimes.

Operations manager "Shredder" Schroeder said there is still a significant amount of renovation required due to the degree of damage done to the facility.

"[Two men] emptied out 17 fire extinguishers inside, broke windows out of the cars and building, stole the computer that had all the company's inventory on it and basically destroyed everything," he elaborated. "Now, we have a German shepherd guarding the place at night."

The owners put Northtown Auto up for sale after the break-in. Last April Lyle Wolle bought the business, and Dean Hewitt, one of the previous owners, stayed on as a co-owner.

The St. Clair Recycled Auto Parts (StClairParts.com) business' staff is helping ownership re-establish the company financially by working as volunteers.

"They're working on trying to get wages set up for us," said Schroeder. "But that comes when the business starts to make a profit. For now, we're all willing to work for free."

The St. Clair Recycled Auto Parts' staff is able to sacrifice their time because, unfortunately, they have not been able to find steady employment due to disabilities they have endured.

"I have Gulf War syndrome, and couldn't find a job," said Schroeder. "There's [another employee] who has Parkinson's [disease] and was let go from his job as an [emergency medical technician]. We also have a Marine here who has a traumatic brain injury and one leg. He actually uses his crutch to help him run a tire machine."

The business is sticking to its commitment to provide roles for disabled workers by modifying its shipping department. Management is planning to build a wheelchair ramp in that area of the facility, to enable them to hire disabled workers.

"Not all of the people we talk to [regarding employment opportunities] are able to work on cars, so we'd like to find other jobs for them to do," added Schroeder.

St. Clair Recycled Auto Parts specializes in Saturn, classic Mercedes-Benz and late-model General Motors parts. According to Schroeder, Wolle donates many of those parts to missionaries.

The business is advertising through Car-Part.com and craigslist as part of its effort to turn a profit, Schroeder noted.

"While there haven't been any profits yet, that's the goal," he added. "Then we'd like to continue to donate and provide charities with parts if they can't afford to pay for them."

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