Michigan Auto Shops Offer Free Oil Change for Military Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2007 - Military family members in Michigan don't have to squeak by anymore when it comes to routine auto maintenance thanks to eight auto garages throughout the state.

"We offer a full-service oil change with a brief safety inspection," said Rob Hopp, owner of Auto Advantage. "We're offering them to any military dependent, active or reserve."

The services are free once every 90 days with an appointment and a military dependent identification card, he said. The Oil Change Help program began just a few months after the fighting started in Iraq and will continue until at least Dec. 31.

Tom Ham, who owns Ham's Automotive, was the key player in getting the program going, Hopp said. "He (Ham) has three children who are Marines," he said. "Two of them have been to Iraq and back."

Hopp had his own reasons for wanting to help out though.

"Gratitude for one thing, for the freedom that we enjoy," he said. "I know that our military is one of the primary reasons that we're able to have the freedom we have today."

He said a customer made the need for his and the other garage owners' services apparent. "(We) just got to talking about things that don't get done, or things that she wonders if they're done right," Hopp said. "(Car maintenance is) one thing that tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list."

News about the free service mostly has been spread by word of mouth, though the local newspaper and radio in the Grand Haven area have given it mention, he said. So little publicity has kept the numbers of those taking advantage of the service at Hopp's garage to about one a week, though he's sure he can handle more.

"I've never hesitated to think that we could handle all (the dependents) that were in this area," he said. "We would need to set appointments, of course, and spread it out a little bit."

Military dependents also can find participating garages in Grand Rapids, the Oak Park area of Detroit, and Marshall. Other garages are welcome to join the program, though there are some requirements that must be met, Hopp said.

"I'm open to others (participating)," he said. "There are some specifics that need to be maintained as far as ethics, (for example) not using it as a tool to lasso people in."

Garages interested in becoming part of the free oil change program can e-mail Hopp through the contact link on the Oil Change Help Web site. The Web site also has contact information for military dependents wanting to make appointments.

As for the servicemembers, Hopp has a simple message for them: "Keep up the great work."

Editor's Note: Military families can also avail themselves of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights home-front groups across the nation that are providing a variety of services and support to troops and their families. A listing of these groups and information about their efforts is available at

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