Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
August 9, 2022 // Diocese

Family-owned Businesses Support Terminally Ill

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

On July 29, Tom’s Car Care Center in South Bend sponsored their 17th Lube-A-Thon, with all proceeds going to the Hospice Foundation and the Center for Hospice Care. 

At the time of the first Lube-A-Thon in 1998, customers and friends had praised the compassionate approach of Hospice, but the Zmyslo family, founders of Tom’s Car Care, had no personal experience with it. Since that time, current owner Dennis Zmyslo’s grandparents have benefited from hospice care, making the cause even more meaningful.

Provided by Jill Boughton
The Zmyslo men, Dennis with his sons Johnathon, Kevin, Zachary, and his father Tom help give to those in need of hospice care through three businesses: Tom’s Car Care, Water Works Car Wash, and Coffee Spots Café.

There is a popular misconception that enrolling in hospice is almost like a death sentence, an admission of defeat. However, the hospice philosophy is to help patients and their loved ones experience the best possible quality of life, even as they face the end of their lives. It is designed for individuals who have chosen to forego aggressive or life-extending treatment for a progressive or incurable illness. They choose instead to spend their final days with minimal pain.

The local community-based Center for Hospice Care serves nine counties in north-central Indiana. Part of its hospice care includes three programs focuseding on specialized attention for those facing chronic challenges: HeartWize, BreatheEasy, and DementiaCare. In addition to home health care, caregiver support, education and grief support, the organization sponsors a seven-bed facility in Elkhart, Esther’s House, and the twelve-bed Ernestine M. Raclin House on the St. Joseph River in Mishawaka. They regard as essential not only skilled nursing care and pain management, but also mental, emotional, spiritual and whole-family support. 

Tom and Diane (founders), Christine and Dennis Zmyslo (current owners)

The Hospice Foundation of America is a national organization. Its role is to provide leadership in the hospice movement, with particular emphasis on the vital role of Hospice within the U.S. health care system. This not-for-profit organization funds professional development, research and public education about caregiving, grieving and advance planning. The Hospice Foundation helps places like Center for Hospice Care to raise funds to assure that no one is ever turned away, regardless of ability to pay. That’s why fundraisers like the Lube-A-Thon play a vital role.

During the all-day Lube-A-Thon, a $45 minimum donation gets customers an oil change, a basic car wash, a goodie bag, and breakfast or lunch. The entire amount is given to hospice. The oil company provides the oil; other supplies and labor are donated.

Tom’s Car Care was founded in 1988 by Tom and Diane Zmyslo and moved three years later to its current location at the corner where Sugar Maple Court intersects Bendix Drive. On that block the Zmyslos run three related business:

 – Tom’s Car Care, which offers 10-minute oil changes, tire rotation, and replacement of parts like lights, belts and wiper blades. 

– Water Works Car Wash enables customers to clean their vehicles after service visits via an automatic drive-through wash and self-serve bays. The car wash is the only one of the three businesses open on Sundays, due to popular demand. 

– Coffee Spot Café began as a place where customers could await the servicing of their vehicles, but soon evolved from coffee to homemade soups and sandwiches. It is now a stand-alone neighborhood food spot.

Before adding in this year’s donations, the Zmyslo family had raised more than $82,000 in total for compassionate end-of-life care.

“It’s never too soon to start thinking about end-of-life issues,” said Dennis.

Like his parents Tom and Diane, who founded the business, Dennis has belonged to Corpus Christi Parish in South Bend all his life. Dennis serves as an usher and is on the finance committee, but that’s all he can manage given the long hours he puts in at the business. He’s proud of the fact that the parish gives a percentage of its collections back to the community, so he finds ways to do the same. 

Cars lined up for a previous Lube-A-Thon.

Without any pressure, Dennis’s customers are given the opportunity to donate to every school or parish sale, and he’ll even promote fundraisers on behalf of customers. However, life issues are particularly dear to his heart. Faithful to Catholic social teaching, he donates generously not only to hospice but also to beginning-of-life causes like Right to Life Michiana and the Women’s Care Center.

“I believe you get back what you give to the community. In fact, we get more than we give. We’re appreciative of the tremendous response to our Lube-A-Thon every time we hold the event.”

Dennis began working at Tom’s right out of high school and learned on the job until he and wife Christine were ready to purchase the business from his parents. Christine stayed home when their three children were small, but now works as an occupational therapist at South Bend Orthopedics. She has also frequently pitched in at Tom’s, as have all the children. Founders Tom and Diane  have also been on hand to help with the Lube-A-Thon event.

“We feel a special connection to our community since three generations of our family have been engaged in the business. The Lube-A-Thon is a nice way for us to show support for the community that supports us,” Dennis said. “It’s also a lot of fun. We enjoy coming together with employees and volunteers to help Center for Hospice Care by staging our Lube-A-Thon.”

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