Led by two high school students, Freer Auto Body and Accessories is helping to give back to the community that has helped them to be so successful for the last 30 years.
Sisters Taylor and Lily Freer (who are 18 years old and 15 years old, respectively), daughters of Tim Freer who owns the shop in Godfrey, Ill., have hosted two events every year to raise money for people in need. “Christmas in July” and “Cookies and Cocoa” have successfully raised over $400,000 since they started in 2009.
“I came to Freer Auto Body, our shop, with my piggy bank when I was about five years old and we wanted to give back to my community,” Taylor says. “I was like, ‘Can I please give all my money back to some charity?’ I didn’t know what charity yet, but I was like, ‘I want to donate this money.’
“This kind of sparked the idea in my grandma to help me start Christmas in July.”
With help from the family and the community, Taylor and Lily have run the two events every year with the money raised growing from $2,500 in 2009 to almost $52,000 the past year.
The event started as a lemonade stand that also sold sloppy joes with a raffle involved. The prizes for those raffles have grown since the events started with bigger prizes becoming a normal scenario.
“This last year, it was a big raffle,” Margaret Freer, Taylor and Lily’s grandmother says. “I mean, we had friends donating condos and trips and cash. There were about six or seven different prizes that tickets were sold for $10 each.”
The proceeds from the event goes to a United Way sponsored charity called Community Christmas, which helps raise money for families around Christmas time. That money is then used to help families with shopping for children’s Christmas presents and anything else needed.
Taylor and Lily also have been chosen to co-chair the Tree of Lights campaign, a Salvation Army-led campaign to help people across America. The campaign starts with a tree lighting ceremony and then big red Salvation Army kettles are put in front of stores across America for donations.
While the two are heavily busy in charitable work each year, Taylor and Lily also help around Freer Auto Body and Accessories—although Lily has some limitations because she can’t drive yet. Taylor will run cars in the shop for the family.
As for Freer Auto Body and Accessories, the body shop started in 1991 with Taylor and Lily’s uncle, David Freer, then 18 years old. David’s brother Tim, took over as president when David died in a motorcycle accident in 2008. Today, Margaret is the treasurer, her husband Mike Freer is the vice president and Tim is still the president. The shop is I-CAR gold certified. It’s also Automotive Service Excellence certified.
“From day one we’ve been about the community,” Margaret says. “We feel as though it is our civic duty to give back and support the community that has made us what we are today.”
Freer Auto Body and Accessories has also won awards for its service, including a distinction of the Best Auto Body shop in Madison County, Illinois, since 2001 by the Alton Telegraph.
According to the Freer Auto Body and Accessories website, it has also been a two-time winner of the Captain of the River Bend Award for community service along with being a four-time winner of the Small Business of the Month Award.
With all these auto shop awards has come a flurry of awards and distinctions for Taylor and Lily as well. Part of the reason it’s gone so smoothly however, is that while the event is a lot of work, the family didn’t have too much trouble advertising it to the community.
“We advertise on the radio and TV,” Margaret says. “People know how much good it does. Everyone wants to make sure that kids have a nice Christmas.”
The awards for community service are earned by Taylor and Lily. However, giving back to the community has always been what Freer Auto Body and Accessories has been about even if Taylor and Lily are at the forefront of it all.
While the idea for Christmas in July and Cookies and Cocoa started with Taylor and Margaret and is continued with Taylor and Lily running things, the community and their family also help out.
“All we do is host it, organize it, set it up,” Lily says. “The community is what really gathers together. They win prizes and it’s a lot of fun.”
All of the charitable works from the two sisters has culminated in the town naming a day after them. The day is in the summer around the time picked every year for Taylor and Lily to host the Christmas in July event.
Taylor and Lily think of it as an honor, but they say it couldn’t be done without the help of everyone at the events—their family and the community.
“From a young age, I’ve always been taught to give back to my community,” Lily says. “I’ve always strived to do that and I really love to do that.”
The message between the Freer family members started with that day where Taylor and Margaret planned to give back to their community. Building up the people around them and helping out where they can has become a core ingredient to the family’s success.
Taylor and Lily have taken it to the next level, and before Taylor heads to college, there is more that the two of them still have planned for the community and charities across the country. The two sisters are still working with the Salvation Army and their two events per year seems to have no end in sight.
From a personal perspective, Taylor and Lily get high praise as students and athletes in high school.
“They’re wonderful kids and straight A students,” Margaret says. “They’re both spoiled rotten but you would never know it. They’re kind and giving and caring.”
Beyond a ton of charity work comes ambitious high school students who are looking toward the future to figure out their possible career paths.
As for what Taylor and Lily’s plans for the future are, the two are prepared to move forward with big resumes. Taylor is heading off to college in 2022 and is focusing on the medical field.
“I’m a senior, so I’ll be deciding where I want to go to college soon,” Taylor says. “I hope to take the pre-med route to hopefully become some sort of physician and get my medical degree, but hopefully I’m thinking dermatology.”
Lily is much more undecided as a freshman in high school. She is keeping her options open, but knows a couple of important things for the future.
“I’m not really sure yet because I’m a freshman, but I’m thinking either a veterinarian because I love animals or something with engineering or maybe even both and create prosthetics for animals,” Lily says. “And I’m hoping to go play [Division I] soccer at a college.”
Shop Name: Freer Auto Body & Acc. Inc.
Owner: Timothy L. Freer
Location: 4512 N. Alby Rd, Godfrey, Il, 62035
Staff Size: 20
Shop Square Footage: 24,100 square feet
Average Monthly Car Count: 100
Annual Revenue: $3.5 Million