That project started when church member Bea Melendez took a group of underprivileged kids from the Cass Corridor in Detroit-youngsters who themselves were "one step from being homeless," Minnette says-down to Texas, where they volunteered in a workshop building PET chairs. In the process, the kids learned to weld and to operate saws and drills. After taking several trips to Texas, the Methodists decided to open their own workshop in Saline. The Relitzes heard about the plan, sought them out, and donated the Carpenter Road garage to PET in April of 2009.
Since then it has undergone a thorough refitting into a workshop, with insulation and shelving to hold tools, safety glasses, gloves, paint, and materials to be cut and assembled. One wall of the shop accommodates a line of power tools, including a drill press, saws, and a router. On the wall, pieces of wood are marked with cutting and assembly instructions to guide the mostly novice workers-today including three young women from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and Minnette's eight-year-old son, L.B.
Minnette, who works as director of information services at Automotive Dealer Management, Inc., says local fund-raising comes from the Saline Lions Club and Ann Arbor Rotary, as well as numerous private donors. The church underwrites the shop's insurance. Though PET's mission, according to the organization's website, is "to reflect the love of Jesus Christ by bringing mobility and dignity to those in developing countries who are unable to walk," there's no sign of Christian proselytizing at the workshop-only Christian charity.