January 27, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

St. Joe Auto giving back to community in multiple ways amid pandemic

Casey and Matt Phillips wanted to do something to brighten the St. Joseph community.

So the husband and wife that own St. Joseph Automotive Diesel, along with the rest of the shop’s staff, did just that.

Recently, the auto shop held an online contest encouraging children to do sidewalk art or art to display in their windows throughout the community. They then asked people to post photos of the art on their Facebook page.

“Matt and I turned to various art forms heavily in school, and we remember the therapeutic aspects that helped us cope with hard emotions and rough circumstances,” Casey said. “This season has been scary for everyone, but kids especially pick up on our stress and coded conversations and are trying to process this ‘new normal’ we’re developing. Giving them an outlet to express themselves and then also the chance to feel proud and be seen are huge boosters for their souls. My front office gals are also artistic in very different ways and were excited to set up this drawing. This is therapeutic for us to experience also.”

They randomly selected a winner and delivered a basket full of activity books, stickers, kites, chalk, glow sticks, Silly Putty, Silly String and Dairy Queen gift cards to their front porch. They also included a free oil change for the parents.

But as they often do, St. Joseph Automotive and Diesel decided to go above and beyond.
“We had seven entries, so we decided all the other kids are getting a thank-you note with DQ gift cards for them and a free oil change for their parents for taking the time to post,” Casey said. “It was fun and one of the first true Facebook engagement activities we’ve done in quite a while, so we’re going to plan more even after the stay-at-home order lifts to continue reaching out to local families.”

St. Joseph Automotive and Diesel is an essential business and as such, has been open during the stay-at-home order. Casey said the staff is trying to give each other more space during the day, but also encouraging hand washing between tasks and transactions.

“There’s routine disinfection and cleaning in high traffic areas of the shop, and we’ve also secured a limited amount of hand sanitizer, gloves and masks for all of us and use them where it’s best called for,” she said.

They also place barrier wrap in customers’ cars while they are working and during pickup or drop off.

“We’ve been encouraging our customers to either let us pick up their vehicles for scheduled appointments or drop off after hours and we easily accept payment over the phone to all help limit contact and ease their stress,” Casey said. “We have a lot of weight on our shoulders to try to keep our team and customers as safe as possible during transactions with their vehicles.”
Phillips said while a lot has changed, the shop is still working normal hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The business is putting the safety of their staff and customers first during this time.
For the shop’s next community outreach project, they will be reaching out to customers in the next several days to check in.

“We want them to know we’re available to help not just with vehicle concerns but are happy to make a grocery and medicine pick-ups for households, bring by a hot meal, try to secure some needed cleaning supplies, connect them with help for pantry/hygiene items or check in on someone they know that needs a hand with something,” Casey said. “We all are able to help each other in different ways, but we realize most people are too timid to ask for any kind of help. So we’re going to take the first step and get the conversation going.”

On a personal level, Phillips said the stay-at-home order has been challenging because, like most parents, she and Matt are now homeschooling their oldest daughter, Carly, who is in kindergarten. Carly goes to the shop daily and has a set amount of work she completes each day.
“But our days have been long lately,” Casey said. “Her creative outlet has been gifting drawings and coloring pages to the staff and we’ve been hanging them up around the shop to encourage her.”

Phillips said their youngest daughter, Ellison, still goes to daycare but that causes worry about potential exposure to COVID-19.

“Although she’s much safer there than being around our machines and loud equipment,” she said.

Casey said the family is in “survival mode” during the week and weekends are decidedly different than they used to be.

“We’re used to being on the go,” she said. “Home improvement stores, community events, visiting grandparents in Terre Haute, seeing friends, birthday parties. We miss our family and friends dearly.”

However there is an upside to staying at home, Casey believes.

“We are actually getting some bigger projects done around the house,” Casey said.

But she is looking forward to visiting with friends at a favorite winery, working with the St. Joseph Women’s Club on community events and seeing her kids spend time with their grandparents, among other items, when the pandemic ends.

“I want to stop worrying about the possibility of breaking down and crying in front of people over stress of all the unknowns,” Casey said. “I want to plan our shop cookout this summer, if that’s even a possibility, and I want to give people a hug when they need one. Nothing compares to real interactions; no technology can ever replace that.”


Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/Photographywynter/

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