The mission started with just three participating washes in Pennsylvania. Twenty years later, more than 4,300 washes are participating — and the number continues to grow.
Today, Grace For Vets continues to provide free washes to veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day (Nov. 11). In 2022, alone, 374,960 washes were provided for our servicemen and women, bringing the running tally to over 3.5 million cars washed since inception in 2003.
“I think the power of washing over 350,000 cars for free each year is a powerful message to each community we serve of just how philanthropic we are as an industry,” said former ICA President Mark Curtis, who runs the program and is also CEO of Splash Car Washes. “But it's also amazing that we have over 4,000 car wash locations participating! I’d love to push our number to 5,000 this year; I've always believed in the strength in numbers.”
But it wasn’t numbers that motivated Curtis to join this program then opt to oversee it once founder Mike Mountz retired in 2013. It was knowing the reality of what his dad, Ros Curtis, now 99, went through during World War II when he was a first lieutenant in the Army Air Force, stationed in China with the Flying Tigers. The second reason: Mountz.
Mountz had sustained injuries while served in the U.S. Army and during his treatment he saw a lot of soldiers go through amputations. He never forgot that, and it became the impetus for Grace For Vets, which he started in 2003 at his Cloister Wash & Lube in Pennsylvania. He wanted to do something to say thank you to those who have served and sacrificed so much for their country.
“I met Mike after I started Wash USA, a national car wash fundraiser for Make-A-Wish, and when he was touting Grace For Vets,” Curtis said. Curtis shared some of his experiences in starting a national movement in the industry with Mountz, included some of the stats Make-A-Wish shared with the Wash USA team.
“Make A Wish told us that 86% of the people surveyed said they would patronize a business that supported a cause that they LIKED. That's huge,” Curtis said.
It’s also a powerful reason for car washes to participate in Grace For Vets. “By letting their community know what they’re doing for the solders, they dramatically increase the likelihood that those same people will use their wash,” Curtis said.
Curtis and Mountz became fast friends following that first meeting and continued to connect through the years. So, when Mountz was ready to retire, after earning a spot in the ICA Car Wash Hall of Fame in 2010, selling his washes in 2012 and deeply rooting Grace For Vets in the industry, Curtis was there to ensure it continued to grow.
“The goal of Grace For Vets is to thank veterans and active duty personnel for their service,” Curtis said. “But in doing so, participating washes create huge amounts of goodwill, not only with the vets, but with their community at large.”
Brian Krusz of Sgt. Clean Car Wash has been a part of Grace For Vets since day one for that reason plus many more. “Giving back to those who have served is not only personal but a team goal,” said Krusz, who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps with the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSGT). “It is our small way of saying thank you for all the sacrifices so that we have the freedoms and luxuries we have now.” Plus, Sgt. Clean offers a 10% veteran discount on monthly plans all year long. “We do this to show our support and gratitude,” he said.