Jeff Mynatt, market manager of Byrd’s Automotive, said “I knew God had a better plan for me,” he told Rotary Club of Farragut members as featured speaker during RCF’s meeting in Fox Den Country Club Wednesday, March 15.
“There was a time in my life when I knew I needed to do something to help people,” he recalled.
With that in mind, he founded the faith-based ministry, Volunteer Rides, of which he is president, and uses his business connections to help deserving people get cars.
That organization, which started in 2016, was the driving force behind providing two Rotary Youth Exchange students with used cars. After 2007-2008 RYE student and Ukraine war refugee, Julie Tryukhan, and her two children arrived in East Tennessee in August 2022, she was assisted by RCF member Tom Marsh in getting her driver’s license.
Mynatt presented her with a car last fall.
In expressing her gratitude, Tryukhan said, “I feel very independent having the car, and my favorite thing is singing in the car as loud as I can, and I love it that no one can hear me.”
Additionally, Volunteer Rides presented a car to Meshan Dobbins, the mother of Keoni Warren, an Austin -East High School graduate and UT-Knoxville student who went to South America as a RYE student.
Volunteer Rides finds cars, has them renovated and then gives them to people in need.
“I believe God made us all to do good and to help others,” Mynatt said. “Our first year, I had two others, besides Bill King Collision, to be able to fix cars … we gave away three cars.
“Someone kept saying to me, ‘What’s the name? You’ve got to name this.’ That’s how the name, Volunteer Rides, came up,” he said.
Also since that time, he has established the organization’s 301(c)3 non-profit status.
Mynatt explained his organization partners with collision, body shops and salvage yards that find and fix the cars. Volunteer Rides raises the money and buys the cars.
“Giving the first car away, we realized the impact we could make in providing transportation to people; and since then, it’s just grown,” he said. “It’s been great.
“We’ve operated on $12,000 each year,” Mynatt added.
However, the cost of cars have tripled.
“It’s getting more expensive to get the cars,” he added.
Early on, Mynatt decided his organization would not choose recipients. Instead he relies on non-profit organizations, such as Rotary Clubs, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, Halls High School (vocational class), Cerebral Palsy and The Lord’s Child Food Pantry to choose potential recipients.
Recipients also do not pay for repairs.
“I explain to the mechanics that it isn’t ministry work if you are charging for it,” Mynatt said. “Sometimes the younger ones have a hard time understanding this.”
He said contributors are welcome by calling 865-567-1145, e-mailing JeffMynatt@aol.com or visiting online at www.VolunteerRides.net
“You can sponsor a car for $3,400,” Mynatt said. “We’ve even had people donate their parents’ cars when they have to quit driving.
“You can use it as a tax deduction,” he said.