JAMES CITY — A local businessman's idea to help single-parent families is going national.
Charlie Marcotte of American Pride Automotive came up with Family Service Day in 2009 from his own life experience.
"I grew up in a single-parent family," he said in a recent interview.
And he knew that sometimes such families are short on resources. And time.
"Sometimes it's just a question of not having time to put the car in for repairs. They are running to schools and to work and to practices. That can be as important as a shortage of money," Marcotte added.
The concept has been expanded to include military families where one parent is deployed.
In the past four years, American Pride Automotive has serviced hundreds of vehicles for at-risk families in the Historic Triangle at no charge. The Family Service Days are held on Saturdays, when it is easier for busy single parents to come. The events rotate among the three American Pride Automotive locations in Williamsburg, Toano and Newport News. The next is scheduled for March, with the exact dates and locations to be determined, according to the company website.
Marcotte said he's only able to offer the service because of his staff.
"They donate their time and labor," he said. "That's something I'm really proud of them for."
Now, the program may expand beyond the bounds of the Historic Triangle.
Marcotte has created a nonprofit corporation, Family Services Day Ltd., which is encouraging other service businesses across the country to adopt the program.
The Family Services Day concept was presented at the 2014 Carquest and Tech-net National Business Conference.
Marcotte said Tech-net, with 5,000 auto service affiliates across the country, will offer the program, and Carquest, the national chain of auto parts stores, will contribute as well.
While he's franchising the program, Marcotte said there are no benefits to him or his business.
"The benefit is in helping the community," he said.
The program is a way for employers — and employees — to give something back.
And it's good for business, Marcotte said.
"It's good for the community and it's good for business. It's wonderful public relations for those companies," he said.
They are also building a relationship with a customer base that will need other auto repairs when that can't be accomplished on Family Service Day. It's likely that those customers will continue to patronize a business that has helped them out.
Marcotte and the Family Service Day concept were recognized by the state last year with a First Lady's Opportunity Seal of Approval.