August '21

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42 THE SHOP AUGUST 2021 oel Reed was mis- d i a g n o s e d w i t h pneumonia several months before he faced the reality of terminal stage 4 lung cancer. At 35-years-young, a non-smoker and otherwise healthy, Reed and his family were shocked and devasted by the news. "In the face of a cancer diag- nosis and the resulting inability to work, Joel's medical bills became over- whelming," says his sister, Keely Kropf. "The mounting financial pressure was significant, and he had a 4-year-old son at the time to consider." On medical leave with no additional funds to carry the heavy load of expenses, the human resources department at O'Reilly Auto Parts—Reed's employer for more than 15 years—pointed him in the direction of the Automo- tive Aftermarket Charitable Foundation. INDUSTRY SUPPORT Founded in 1959, AACF is the only organization of its kind that assists automotive aftermarket professionals like Reed and his family who, due to catastrophic illness or ter- rible accident, "have exhausted all other available resources in maintaining a reasonable existence," according to the foundation. "Think calamitous events like natural disasters, an aftermarket employee who went through a terrible accident that left him or her handicapped, or (industry) par- ents with a child who passes away from a rare disease," explains Joel Ayres, executive director of AACF. In these and similar cases, hospital bills often pile up alongside household expenses, mortgage payments and/or funeral costs— making a devastating experience even more overwhelming. "That's where we come in," says Ayres. AACF boasts a 90-95% approval rating for automotive aftermarket personnel who ask for help and meet the necessary requirements. Financial assistance ranges from $2,500 to tens of thousands of dol- lars on a case-by-case basis, helping to pay household essentials such as bills and gro- ceries, time off to care for or grieve the loss of a loved one, funeral expenses or lifechanging renovations like converting a home to handicapped-accessible after a tragic accident. "Most of the time, these types of applica- tions are a complicated, drawn-out process, but since we're nimble, flexible and speedy, most of our approved applicants receive a Founded in 1959, the Automotive Aftermarket Charitable Foundation assists automotive af- termarket professionals who suffer accidents or illnesses and have nowhere else to turn. Charity Begins at Home AACF's mission is to support the aftermarket. By Stefanie Galeano-Zalutko Joel Ayres joined AACF as executive director six years ago.

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