Today, Edgar Lopez is a counterman at NAPA AUTO PARTS in Indianapolis, Indiana. But as a high school student he was part of City Life Wheels, a program of Central Indiana Youth for Christ that teaches young people basic auto maintenance and repair skills to build self-confidence and the means to provide for themselves and their futures.
While Lopez was a student at City Life Wheels, program director Nate Hershey was in need of help outfitting their auto repair facility. He recalled a similar program, City of Refuge in Atlanta, Georgia, and he knew NAPA outfitted that warehouse space with state-of-the-art tools, lifts, and parts needed to offer auto tech repair training. He was hoping he might get similar assistance for City Life Wheels.
NAPA Family Lends a Hand
Hershey reached out to Greg Turnbull, a Central Indiana Youth for Christ board member as well as Vice President for N.A. Williams Company, a manufacturer’s representative agency with NAPA and Balkamp as two of its customers.
Turnbull said, “My father was a 35-year veteran of NAPA/Genuine Parts Company and my company now enjoys having NAPA as a customer. The opportunity to connect City Life Wheels with NAPA and Balkamp just made all kinds of sense as I knew that NAPA enjoys partnering with groups that are making a difference in the lives of kids in the local community.”
The NAPA Indianapolis Distribution Center, Balkamp, and NAPA suppliers stepped in. For example, Hennessy Industries donated tire changers and balancer; Ingersoll Rand, rotary screw compressor; ChemFree, SmartWasher; Energy Logic, ceiling shop fans; and Homak, service tool boxes and work benches. Challenger lifts were provided at cost.
“NAPA has been a huge help in providing equipment and tools to help these young people in City Life Wheels develop some real world skills that they can use both personally and professionally,” added Turnbull. Young people like Edgar Lopez.
Lopez Gaining NAPA Know How
Lopez said, “I’ll be 19 this summer and I started going to City Life Wheels when I was 14 mostly because it sounded interesting. Back then, I didn’t know a single thing about cars.”
At City Life Wheels, students do the actual maintenance and repair work on cars that have been donated. After they are safely repaired, the vehicles are sold to help fund the program.
Lopez continued, “During my time at City Life Wheels I started learning more and more about cars. And I opened up to the idea of being a mechanic one day. When I was getting ready to graduate from high school I knew I wanted to do something automotive-related and I decided starting in the parts field would be a good place to begin.
“I worked at another auto parts store for a while before the job at NAPA came along. I love what I’m doing at NAPA—selling parts. But, it’s really more than just standing at a counter selling parts. It’s figuring out exactly what part the customer needs and finding it when no one else can.
“The NAPA store where I work is mostly commercial. But we’re starting to get more and more walk-in customers. The store is located in a largely Hispanic area and I’m bilingual, so that’s helping those Spanish-speaking customers feel more comfortable.
Hershey said, “Edgar’s experience shows that working in the automotive industry isn’t just limited to turning wrenches. There are many opportunities other than being a technician. And Edgar is a good example of that.”
Lopez continued, “I still head to City Life Wheels after work on Tuesdays. I help out with the younger guys who are starting to work on cars. Nate is a good role model and his goal is to get teens involved with something other than being on the street. It’s a really good thing that he’s doing.”
As for Edgar’s future, he said, “NAPA treats me really well. The company offers a lot of opportunity and it’s a place where I can advance. If I keep working hard, one day I might be even a district or regional manager.”
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.