Community Development

A community that runs on motor oil

June 27, 2024  • Weave: The Social Fabric Project

Joel Lueb and his wife fostered 19 kids over eight years in Long Beach, CA. The city is part of the Los Angeles metro area. They love the deep relationships they built with their children. But they also saw how foster youth, who didn’t have a stable home while growing up, struggled as they became adults without a trusted network of care and support.

“There’s all kinds of resources available to foster youth for housing, education, and even vocational training. But there are few to help them transition from dependent foster care to healthy independence,” says Lueb. “To get there, they need community.”

He decided to ask his neighbors and friends to become the network of care and support the now-independent youth needed. But he recognized they faced a challenge. “If I’m 18, why would I go and hang out with somebody that’s 40 or 60 or 80?” says Lueb. They needed a shared space where everyone had some passion and a role to play.

His solution: they would rebuild classic cars together.

One of Lueb’s early supporters had been prepping trucks to race in Baja California, Mexico and offered his mechanic’s shop. They opened the doors and invited people to hang out, learn from each other, and share a meal once a week at the garage. They called it Motor Mondays. Young adults would own the cars once the work was finished.

“When you start working on something together and rubbing shoulders, pulling something apart and figuring out what that looks like, while at the same time sharing life stories, it creates a bond,” says Lueb. And it’s not only the youth who benefit.

“There is a true sense of mutuality because a lot of the people who come to Motor Mondays are retired and are kind of struggling to find purpose and connection. We also have a lot of people that are in their thirties and forties that just love cars, love giving back, and love learning. It has become a hub for the community where intergenerational friendships are normalized.”

Lueb created a nonprofit called DSF Werks. He has even expanded the scope of the project to include a media arts program, a full-time paid internship, and a mobile mechanics workshop to share their experience elsewhere. You can read more about the project and see photos and videos of the cars on the group’s website.

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