From feeding people to fixing up old cars, Eliot Middleton is driven to help those in need.
Middleton, who owns the restaurant Middleton & Maker Village BBQ , lives in McClellanville, South Carolina — a town “where everybody looks out for everybody,” he says. Because of his barbecue skills, some of his supporters suggested Middleton enter a barbecue cook-off in 2020. He did — and came in first place.
But rather than happily collecting his prize money and heading home, Middleton chose to donate half of his winnings back to the town to host a Thanksgiving food drive for those in need. Middleton and volunteers distributed 250 meals to families, but when they finished, Middleton noticed that many people were still waiting in line outside for food. “Some folks didn’t make it in the line early enough because they didn’t have vehicles,” he says. “They were walking three or four miles just to get to the food drive.” Eliot Middleton fixes cars in need of repair for free and donates them to people in need. (Photo: Eliot Middleton) Without a car or living near public transportation in that rural area, the closest place to get food is a small gas station and a Dollar General store. But Middleton explains that for some people, those places are at least 15 miles away. “Walking to one of those facilities to get anything is pretty much a half a day task,” he explains.
Along with access to food, the lack of transportation also affects employment opportunities. “You’re never going to have a chance or opportunity to make more than the minimum wage because you don’t have a car,” Middleton says. “A car changes all of that.”
That’s when a light bulb went off in Middelton’s head. He realized he could fix up old cars in need of repair and donate them to people in need. Thanks to his father, who was a mechanic and had an auto body shop, Middleton knows his way around cars. “Since I can walk or crawl, I’ve been in the shop,” Middleton says. Eliot Middleton’s dad, Kevin Wayne Middleton, Sr., was a mechanic. He passed away last year, but continues to inspire his son. (Photo: Eliot Middleton) He shares that everything he does for his community is inspired by his dad’s kindness towards others. “If someone came in and they didn’t have all of the money for the repair, he would tell them, ‘Hey, just pay it every so often on your paychecks,’” Middleton says. “That was something that he probably couldn’t afford to do, but he did it anyway because of his heart.”