Jeffrey McGrew…TJ Crossman has been living and working on cars in Vista since 1992. Since then he has grown and changed his business from being mobile in 2006 to finally having his own shop in 2013. However TJ’s shop has been much more to the community than just a place to go and get your car fixed. Even though this may be your first time hearing his name, TJ’s generosity and influence is closer than you think. In the two years his auto shop has been open he has already changed several lives with his skill and compassion for others. As a true friend of the community TJ has done it again.
On July 18th in a small corner of Vista, TJ held an event where he gave away a free car to a person or family in need. When I arrived to his shop on a rare rainy day in Vista, I was immediately blown away at TJ’s set up for the event. Not only did he invite the people who applied and their family and friends, but he left his door open to anyone who wanted to come enjoy all that his shop has to offer. He gave me a personal tour of his diner themed office. That he designed himself as well as the shop. He instantly won me over with his charismatic hospitality and with how excited he was for the event. After my tour many of the applicants started to trickle in and the dancing started to pick up and the grill was lit. TJ manned the grill and served pull pork sandwiches along with many other snacks and beverages. I began mingling with some of the attendants and had an inspiring conversation with one of TJ’s friends and judge for the applicants, Jon Van Vuren. He told me how when he was going through an extremely difficult point in his life due to health issues, but TJ was there to help.
Jon met TJ after his Durango was in dire need of repair and took it to TJ’s shop. However, Jon soon figured out that his repairs would cost him around 3,000 dollars! In his condition Jon was unable to work and could not come up with such a high sum of money to fix his Durango. Therefore TJ after hearing his position knew immediately what he had to do in order to make things right. He pulled together his resources and let Jon use a loaner vehicle and fixed his Durango for free while Jon determined to recover got back on his feet! When I asked TJ about this he said to me, ” Here is a guy fighting for his life, but I’m frustrated with due bills.” He then told me that he knew that Jon’s situation easily outweighed his own immediate needs as a shop owner. Ever since then Jon and TJ have been friends and thanks to Jon’s determination and TJ’s generosity he was able to get back on his feet.
After my conversation with Jon I spoke with TJ about the car he was giving away. He informed me that it took his shop fifty hours of labor to repair the car and that many of the parts were donated. He also spoke to me about many of the other applicants and their own impelling stories and that he knew he couldn’t be a judge for the event. He knew that he would have honestly tried to get as many cars as possible to help everyone! Even his friends whom I had the chance to speak to told me that “he is just that kind of guy.” For this event there were fifty to sixty applicants who sent in their stories as far as Los Angeles and the border.
Later, as we were winding down after some delicious food and fun, tensions were high as we waited for TJ to announce the winner. When he stepped up to the front of the shop to give his speech the room became silent and all the attention was on the generous mechanic. He began his speech by telling us his own story of struggle and loss. As TJ is a cancer survivor and his daughter was born two months early being born three pounds and twelve ounces. He then moved on letting everyone in attendance know how much he wanted to help all the applicants and how blessed he is to even help one of them.
He then announced the name, Sharyl Cherwa. A lady in the far corner of the shop instantly began to cry and to stand up. She slowly approached TJ in disbelief and with tears of joy running down her cheeks. TJ then told her while having some tears of his own, that he is so happy that he was able to put this event together. However he told her that he was not the only one who should be thanked, but the many others who helped him restore the car and the community of Vista itself for helping to support his shop. Finally, while holding up the keys he pointed behind her and said, ” that’s yours, your car is out back.” I immediately felt chills and the shop erupted in applause, and I knew I was so fortunate to be present for such a meaningful event.
After Sharyl and TJ took the car out for a ride I was able to speak to her as well. She immediately hugged me and I asked what she was feeling. She replied with ” God, he answered my prayers.” I then asked Sharyl what she was going to do first with her new car and she excitedly exclaimed ” I’m going to church tonight, and I’ am going to hold the door open for everyone and thank God!” During our conversation Sharyl’s friends came up immediately and hugged her and shared her enthusiasm. They were still holding her when they told me about how much of an amazing and giving person Sharyl is. They also told me how she has helped their community and that they are glad she will be able to help out even more.
I later found out that members from Sharyl’s church and her friends wrote letters of recommendation for her. Sharyl is a member of a community church in Poway and wanted to use the car to help herself and others to be able to attend service and bible study. She also has not seen her son in 4 years who lives in Beaverton, Oregon and wanted to use the car to see him as well. Sharyl has also been going through a very difficult time, but has had much moral support from her church and friends.
When our conversation had ended and the party began to wind down I approached TJ and expressed my own gratitude for his support here in Vista. His generosity and compassion goes beyond the cliché of an “honest mechanic.” I asked him where he gets his inspiration to help people’s cars and their lives. He then told me that after his struggles, “doing things for others gets you out of your own head.” I can honestly say after my own experience with TJ, that in the future he could become Vista’s mechanic with all of his hard work and genuineness. However, only time and the contributions of our community can tell whether this honest dream will come true.
TJ Crossman Auto Repair is located at 1330 N Melrose Dr, Vista, CA 92084 – Phone:(760) 908-3381