Good samaritan

Geovanni Melara

Photo by Tom Blodget

Giovanni Melara was born in El Salvador and opened Contagious Motorsports in Chico in 2000. The shop services “everything auto” but also specializes in truck accessories, window tinting, stickers, signs and car audio. For nearly a decade, Melara has made annual trips to Central America to bring food and supplies to some of the poorest people in this hemisphere. He is gearing up to head down south next month and is accepting new or gently used backpacks, school supplies, toys, manual farm tools and monetary donations at the auto shop through Sept. 28. Contagious Motorsports is located at 1639 Longfellow Ave.—look for the yellow school bus. For more info, visit the Facebook page.

What motivates you to do this?

I am doing this trip because I know firsthand what it is like to live in poverty. As a Christian, the Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is our way to spread the gospel and help these families.

How long have you been making these bus trips?

Since 2009. Last year, we went to Nicaragua. This time, we’ll be traveling to rural areas around Sonsonate, El Salvador. We buy food for needy families from local farmers to support their businesses. On one of our last trips we were able to provide 400 families with 45 pounds of food each. That will help a typical family for two weeks. This is our second trip bringing backpacks and clothes. Each backpack contains paper, pencils, pens, an eraser, a toothbrush and a Spanish Bible.

When will you be leaving?

On Oct. 3, [my friend] Joe Hughes and I will drive to Brownsville, Texas, to cross into Mexico. His organization, Jesus Was a Carpenter, will also be donating this bus to King’s Castle Church in El Lago de Coatepeque. Through Mexico we can only drive during the day for safety. We usually sleep in the bus most nights. Once we arrive at the El Salvador border, it can take a few days to clear customs and can be quite pricey.

What are the people like?

The people are very poor. Most of them live in metal or plastic huts by the side of the road with dirt floors. The majority don’t have electricity or running water. They are very kind and loving people. They always try and give us fresh fruit or eggs as a gift. Every time we go, we hear different stories about how difficult life can be in El Salvador. Last year, a grandma told us that she is raising her three grandchildren and for the past week all they had to eat was coffee and tortillas. We have also brought tools to help some people start their own businesses and we helped one family buy chickens to start a farm. Last year we brought a baby doll for one little girl who told us that she had been praying her whole life for one. This is just what God has put in our hearts to make the world a better place.