According to Tom, “Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn!”
A simple acorn idea is how the Lights On! program came to fruition. Palisade Principal Tom Welch read an article about the high percentage of police stops for vehicle lighting violations and how the stops disproportionately involve low-income people. Tom attended a MicroGrants board meeting and asked Don Samuels, MicroGrants CEO, what local nonprofits assist low-income Minnesotans with minor car repair expenses. Don researched and found that, surprisingly, no nonprofits provided this type of support. The board agreed there was a need for this type of program, so Don met with the Minneapolis Police Department and the idea grew from there.
Through the Lights On! program, police officers that stop cars for light violations can offer a voucher for free repairs of broken lights at a designated auto repair shop. The program offers a solution to those who cannot afford repairs and builds the relationship between the community and police.
Since the Lights On! program began in 2017, twenty-four police departments around Minnesota are now participating, and over 700 vehicles have been repaired. Two midwestern cities have also implemented similar programs.
“Ideas come up all the time, but implementation makes it happen,” said Joe Selvaggio, founder of MicroGrants.
Tom has been a MicroGrants board member since 2014.