The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

June 2, 2014

Driven to help | Couple plan to use auto repair skills to assist others

Dave and Kate Martin of Hollsopple are planning to put their knowledge of auto repair to good use by helping others.

Both are graduates of Universal Technical Institute in Exton, Chester County, a post-secondary school for those seeking careers as professional automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians.

“At first, it was just me at UTI,” Dave said. “I would tell Kate about things I was learning, then she wanted to come too.”

They lived in Reading while attending school, getting up at 4:30 in the morning to make the one-hour drive to class.

Kate, 24, graduated from the school’s automotive technology training program Nov. 27, 2012, and Dave, 33, graduated from the automotive, diesel and industrial training program Dec. 20, 2012.

Since graduating from UTI, the couple moved to the Hollsopple area, where they have been helping out on Dave’s parents’ farm.

They plan to use the skills and knowledge they’ve learned at UTI to open their own auto repair shop, where they will cater to those who cannot afford to pay much for basic automotive services.  

“We want to work with churches to help families in the surrounding area,” Dave said. “We want to start small with local pastors.”

The Martins hope to buy property close by to build a house for themselves and a garage for their business.

Their goal is to have something started by late summer of 2015.

“We’ll do things like changing serpentine belts, oil changes, tires and inspections,” Kate said. “We’re looking forward to applying our skills to help people in need, such as a single mom who can’t afford an oil change.”

Kate does better with electrical components because that area of car repair makes sense to her.

“I have changed oil too, even lying on top of a slab of ice,” she said.

Dave is now attending classes at WyoTech in Blairsville, where he is taking a collision course.

He said he knows of a similar setup where a church has a garage.

“We might have to branch out if it catches on,” Dave said.

When they first came to the farm, they lived in the big farm house with Dave’s parents, but now rent a smaller home on the property.

“My dad rents out the fields to dairy farmers,” said Dave. “We help with the vegetable garden, lawn and other projects. My dad has a Ford pickup I’m going to reweld.”

“We do what we can to help out,” Kate added.

Kate, who lived in a suburb of St. Louis before moving to Idaho for her military service, has fallen in love with Somerset County.

“It was one hour to a town big enough for a Wal-Mart,” she said. “It’s a happy medium here. It’s not as far to the store, and there’s space for us to stretch out and be ourselves. I really love it. I’ve never been so happy in my life. I never want to leave. It’s perfect.”

The couple met while serving in the Air Force in Mountain Home, Idaho, which is in the middle of a desert.

There was a chapel on base, and both attended the young adult ministry.

“I saw him walk into church late and thought ‘I could marry that guy,’ ” Kate said.

It took them a week to start dating and another week to admit they should get married.

Dave has always had a passion for auto repair and found various opportunities to work on cars.

“I always tinker,” he said. “I have an off-road Chevy Blazer I keep running.”

That first week they were getting to know each other,  Kate’s car battery died, and Dave was able to fix it.

“He showed me the problem, and it was easy,” she said. “Once we met, he showed me the ropes.”

Dave’s interest in auto repair was so contagious, Kate couldn’t help but want to know more.

“As I fell in love with Dave, I fell in love with cars,” she said. “I realized how awesome cars were. They’re a complex mental puzzle and not as simple as you think. They’re so detailed. You have to think outside the box to figure it out.”

Seven to eight months after they first met, the couple got married off-base in May 2010.

Dave would get out of the service that October, but Kate wasn’t due for discharge until 2012.

They had a small wedding in May and a bigger one in September and were able to Skype both sets of parents.

After getting married and finishing their military service, Dave and Kate decided to move to Pennsylvania and attend Universal Technical Institute during the summer of 2012.

They also have their own online business selling Amway products.

The Martins plan to wait for children until their business is doing better and they pay off their debt first.

“We had good mentors,” Kate said.

They are members of Somerset Alliance Church, where they also attend a Sunday school class and Dave attends a men’s Bible study.

The Martin family is rounded out by two cats, Cheddar and Kyra.

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
In the Spotlight

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads