Part of Dwell’s Oakland Park campus is being renovated to accommodate a major expansion of Central Ohio Youth for Christ’s HireLevel Auto program, helping disadvantaged students learn marketable auto repair skills. HireLevel Auto will continue classes at its current facility on the west side, but this expansion at the Warehouse will allow for many more participants to benefit, from a wider geographic area. The current facility can serve 40 students but the Warehouse expansion can handle 400.
HireLevel Auto trains students using donated vehicles which, once repaired, are sold on its used car lot. The new trade center at the Warehouse not only expands the repair bays where students can train, but will also accommodate the car sale lot, allowing students to intern alongside 3 Christian professional technicians who are fixing cars to fund the program.
Luke’s Auto owner Luke Walker (a Dwell member) has helped lead the HireLevel Auto program for the last few years and is spearheading this expansion. He says the Wheels Automotive Trade Center at the Warehouse is on track for an October grand opening.
He says he’s deeply burdened to help young people who may be mechanically gifted find a vocation, especially if they’ve grown up in poverty. He says that as a high schooler, he struggled to sit through classes, but found working with this hands in the real world was energizing. “I may not have graduated if I hadn't gone to a trade center. If I barely made it coming from a loving Christian family, then how are young men and women growing up in poverty without a stable home life going to make it?”
Luke says the trades, including auto repair, are far more than "plan B if you aren't smart enough for college." He says God has gifted young men and women with many different kinds of intelligence, including hands-on mechanical aptitudes, and HireLevel gives them the chance to explore the auto field, and the trades in general.
He envisions this trade center expansion breaking the cycle of poverty for hundreds of students and families. The trade center’s 3-fold mission goes beyond promoting a vocation: “To help young men and women identify and cultivate: their vocational gifting; God's love for them; and a life of loving others.”
As for Dwell's part in the venture, Operations Division Coordinator Steve Bauer says the Oakland Park space and its location--close to the South Linden and OSU campus communities we hope to serve--offered an ideal partnership opportunity. "Dwell had wanted to foster a trade route for students who would not be attending college, and this was a great chance to move forward with a trusted ministry partner seeking the same goal. Urban Concern had a major voice in championing this approach and seeking alternatives for vocational training. Thus many hopes and goals came together in the plans for this trade center."
Steve says Dwell and HireLevel worked through the end of 2018 and into 2019 on the detailed architectural plans for the site. "We ended up with a great solution for meeting program goals while seeking to minimize costs. Finally, in mid-2019 we were able to apply for building permits."
Luke says the permitting process took nearly a year, but with permits in place, the renovation work has gone quickly—COVID restrictions put classes with students on hold, allowing them to focus entirely on the renovation.
You're invited to be a part of this expansion. While classes are on hold for now, Luke says they need more volunteers to work with students once classes resume. It’s about a 2-hour commitment for 6 weeks, and they will train you on it. If you’re interested, contact Luke at email@example.com. You can also learn more about the Trade Center expansion and its financial needs at wheelstradecenter.com/.