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Leading the Way

A partnership between two very different organizations serves others and offers second chances.

Article by Bethany Wiley, MPH, RYT

Photography by Shel Perez

Originally published in Greeley Lifestyle

Greeley has changed significantly over the past 100 years, but Weld County Garage has served the community based on a sturdy foundation of values that have spanned generations. Founded in 1908, Weld County Garage grew into a cornerstone in the community, honoring its core values: Respect, integrity, the golden rule, fun, and togetherness. For the owners of Weld County Garage, operating on a strong set of values is ingrained in every decision, including providing second chances to individuals hoping for transformation.

In 1982, Lee Yoder and two business partners purchased Weld County Garage from the third generation of the McArthur Family. In high school, Lee’s son Warren Yoder started working in the business and experienced a bit of everything from washing cars to working in the body shop, service department and sales. Warren said that working in all these areas gave him a greater understanding of the issues the employees address on a regular basis. In 1994, when Lee was ready to retire, Warren was prepared to take the reins.

There was no pressure from Warren’s dad to take over the business. Warren felt it was a natural progression and that he would be in the role someday, however, the transition wasn’t without hiccups. “We really battled. It was hard. It was a hard transition for him, and I really thought I was going to get kicked out of the business,” said Warren. He is thankful that he and his dad worked through it, and eventually, his dad gave Warren the freedom to pave his own path. Warren recalls feeling confident at first in his skills to take over his dad’s business, “When you’re young, you think you know it all, but you don’t want to reveal that you don’t, so you just work harder and try to figure it out. Now it’s like second nature, you don’t even think about it.”

The core of Weld County Garage culture is, “driven to do what’s right.” Warren lives that out by offering people opportunities for redemption, by partnering with the Greeley organization, Jobs of Hope.

“We certainly believe in giving people a second chance whatever your background is,” Warren said. Established in 2013, Jobs of Hope is a faith-based community organization with the mission to: “Restore hope and see transformation in the lives of gang-affiliated individuals and those involved in the justice system.”

Executive Director, Ernest Cienfuegos-Baca, describes Jobs of Hope as a re-entry program for men who are coming out of incarceration, have felonies or gang affiliation and are struggling to reintegrate back into the community. Jobs of Hope offers a core program called Men of Valor, consisting of 20 classes that are based on Biblical values. “We talk about the transformation that occurs within a man - to transform his life and leave behind all that ‘stuff’ and start a new chapter so that he can be a better father, husband, and man,” said Ernest.

Through partnerships with many Greeley agencies and employers, Jobs of Hope helps their men find faith and hope. “When you have hope, you’re willing to work hard for yourself, for your family, for your kids. And that’s what Jobs of Hope is all about – giving you hope,” said Ernest. If an employer connects with Jobs of Hope, a relationship is established first to see what opportunities are available. Then Jobs of Hope screens candidates and sends individuals who they think are truly a consideration for the business. “We never ask an employer to make a commitment to hire. All we ask is that they’ll make a commitment to opening the door to meet the candidate and see if they might be a good fit for your company,” explains Ernest.

Since its inception, about 400 men have come through Jobs of Hope and around 200 have officially completed the program. Over the past several years, Weld County Garage has hired five candidates from Jobs of Hope. “We’ve had some really good success and we’ve had some that haven’t worked out, which is no different than it would be with any other employees,” explains Warren.

When Warren and his wife Julie Yoder discovered Jobs of Hope, it wasn’t long before their hearts were transformed. Warren and Julie, as parents of three boys of their own, quickly had compassion for the men at Jobs of Hope. The Yoder’s embrace the men from Jobs of Hope the same way they do all employees - like they’re part of the Weld County Garage family. “When some of these guys have left employment with us, it’s always really hard, especially on me - it just hurts,” said Warren, referring to the feeling of a family member leaving.

After 27 years of serving as General Manager and Owner, Warren is ready to begin transitioning leadership of the business to a third generation Yoder -- his son Chase. “I’m going through flashbacks and glimpses of memories when me and my dad went through the transition,” said Warren. Chase has fond memories of running around the shop when he was a young boy. Like his dad, Chase also began working at Weld County Garage as a teenager, experiencing all areas from car washing, car moving, sales and finance.

When Chase began his college path in business, he realized he could achieve better hands-on learning from his dad. “I ended up ditching my college classes to sell cars. One of my professors said it was not a smart idea,” he recalls. Chase is currently the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and is looking forward to stepping into his dad’s role in the future. “My grandfather and father did so many things well, and I’m excited to put my stamp on it,” Chase said.

Leading a more than 100-year-old business into the future comes with some pressure. “There are generations of customers who have come through our doors to purchase their vehicles. We have a positive reputation and I want to make sure that continues,” said Chase. Whether it’s helping men from Jobs of Hope transform their lives, or serving the community, the Yoder’s are dedicated to the values and mission of Weld County Garage and continuing as a cornerstone of the community for generations to come.

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