Pre-Winter Community Car Checkup provides free maintenance services to Des Moines residents

On a chilly Saturday morning, the parking lots of North High School and nearby streets were packed with Des Moines community members for a pre-winter car checkup.  

The Pre-Winter Community Car Checkup was created five years ago as a response to the death of Philando Castile, a Black man from Minnesota who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop.

“We thought, ‘Well, we know how to fix things. What if we did an inspection where we could identify lights, or wipers or things that might lead to somebody getting pulled over,’ and maybe we could prevent a stop from happening, maybe that helps prevent an escalation,” said Jim O’Halloran, president of O’Halloran International and one of the organizers of the event.

Along with O’Halloran, Izaah Knox, executive director of Urban Dreams, and Des Moines police Sgt. and public information officer Paul Parizek also helped organize the Pre-Winter Community Car Checkup. 

Residents have their cars checked during the fifth annual pre-winter community car check-up put on by Urban Dreams at North High School on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Des Moines.

“It’s not about reducing the number of people who come in contact with the police,” Parizek said. “It’s about increasing the number of people who come in contact with the police in a situation like this where it’s casual, it’s a friendly environment, it’s not an enforcement situation.”

Because of COVID-19, community members were instructed to stay in their cars while they either had their windshield wiper blades checked and replaced, tires filled or exterior lights changed out.

“That’s really impressive to me that the police department and major organizations are down here working with people in the community,” said Amelia Marchant of Des Moines. “I see a lot of different levels of people too; people with expensive cars, nicer cars, newer cars — I think that’s a good thing because it’s spread throughout the community.” 

Community members also had the opportunity to have their child car seats checked and get their flu shots, Knox said. Once they were done, they were sent home with bags filled with masks, granola bars and hand sanitizers.

“Seeing that the community is actually taking an interest in people that need this sort of thing — or any kind community service that help benefit families — is outstanding,” Marchant said.

Amber Mohmand covers breaking news for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at amohmand@registermedia.com or on Twitter @ambermohmand.

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