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HAL COLSTON, 54
Founder, Good News Garage, Burlington, Vt.

MIDLIFE SWITCH: Working 80-hour weeks as catering director of the New England Culinary Institute's Inn at Essex, Vt., Colston thought about his dad, Jim, the first African-American insurance agent in his Pennsylvania town. "He took risks," Colston says. Shortly after his 40th birthday, Colston took one himself—quitting his job to work for a nonprofit that provided transportation help to the poor.

AN EPIPHANY: One day in 1993, Colston was helping a woman who had bought a used car only to discover the brakes didn't work. An all-around handyman, Colston had an idea: Why not rehab donated used cars for low-income people? Three years later, with help from Lutheran Social Services, he launched the Good News Garage (www.goodnewsgarage.org). Working out of a bus garage with mechanic Jon Van Zandt, Colston changed tires, wrote grants—and worked at a bakery to support his wife and three kids.

WHEELS TO WORK: Since then the garage has expanded to Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, providing low-cost cars to 3,000 people for the purpose of getting to work—and, as a result, helping many get off welfare, says Mark Schroeter of Vermont's Agency of Human Services. "Hal's a visionary," he says. Jennifer Anderson, 27, a mom of three, uses the '98 Dodge Caravan she got for $500 to get to work as a nurse-assistant. "I'm able to support myself," she says. As for Colston, he's handed off garage duties to focus on a new project, NeighborKeepers (www.neighborkeepers.org), a life-mentoring program for the poor. "I always feel," he says, "the answers are right in front of me."

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