St. Charles Marine gives back to community through his foundation for children

United States Marine Corps veteran Minor Mobley owns Excel Automotive Repair in St. Charles and co-founded Big Hearts Fox Valley with his wife, Jennifer.

Minor Mobley is a U.S. Marine, business owner, husband, father and local philanthropist who founded Big Hearts of Fox Valley, a charitable organization that for the past decade helps provide for children in need in St. Charles and surrounding areas of Kane County.

He is an auto mechanic and successful owner of Excel Auto, located at 1207 Foundry St. in St. Charles.

Married for 20 years, Mobley and his wife, Jennifer, who is president of the Big Hearts of Fox Valley Foundation, have two children, Nicole, 13, and Ethan, 15, who are students in District 303.

Big Hearts of Fox Valley helps children within St. Charles School District 303.

Mobley grew up in Indiana. He started wrestling at age 6 and in high school earned a full-ride scholarship to wrestle in college. However, during his senior year of high school, he said a series of bad decisions got him into trouble and he lost his scholarship.

Not knowing what to do or where he would go, he visited a recruiting office for the U.S. Marine Corps and two weeks later was headed to basic training. He served in the Corps from 1995 until 2001 and while he said his war stories are privileged information, he said his time in the service helped him turn his life around.

“I have some good [memories] and some bad,” Mobley said. “I think we do what we do in hopes that one day when the Lord comes calling, I’ll be accepted.”

After leaving the Marines, Mobley said he returned to Indiana and bounced between jobs. In 2009, just before his daughter was born, he lost his job. Not finding work in Indiana, he came to Illinois to look for a new career.

He was hired as an automobile salesman before deciding to start his own shop, Excel Auto, in 2014. Mobley said he grew up around cars and he and his father both had experience racing and he enjoys working on and fixing cars.

Mobley said owning a business has its share of stress, but he enjoys helping people and offering a high quality of service in an industry that is not always known for its friendliness.

“I love being able to take care of people and making them smile,” Mobley said. “The best thing about my job is sticking the pin into the stereotypic bubble of the car industry. We do it differently.”

United States Marine Corps veteran Minor Mobley owns Excel Automotive Repair in St. Charles and co-founded Big Hearts Fox Valley with his wife, Jennifer.

On the same day Excel Auto opened – Nov. 3, 2014 – Big Hearts was founded. Big Hearts of Fox Valley is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in St. Charles that benefits District 303 children facing financial hardships during the Christmas season and throughout the year.

Mobley said before the shop opened he and his wife always knew they wanted to find a way to give back to the community but weren’t sure how.

He said just before opening Excel Auto, he and his wife decided to spoil their kids with Christmas presents. One night he was at Toys R Us shopping for a Thomas the Tank Engine toy his son wanted. He watched a young boy in the store grab the last one on the shelf, but when he handed it to his mom, she told him they couldn’t afford it and he had to put it back.

Mobley said the boy was devastated, and although the boy didn’t cry or make a scene, Mobley could feel the boy’s disappointment.

Mobley bought the toy for his son, but couldn’t get the interaction between the boy and his mother out of his head.

“I got home that night and I felt like I was having a heart attack,” Mobley said. “I’m having panic attacks, my chest is hurting and the only thing I could think of was that there were so many families in that same situation.”

Mobley said he couldn’t sleep, so he got up, dressed and went into the shop, just weeks before it was to open, to think about how they were going to help people. He said that was when he and his wife decided to create a way to give back to the kids in the community.

“I believe that was a sign that said this is where you’re supposed to be and this is what you’re supposed to do,” Mobley said.

Mobley said their goal was to brighten the lives of St. Charles children in low-income households. It began as a Christmas gift sponsorship program in which community members volunteer to buy gifts from lists submitted by families in need.

It was Jennifer Mobley’s idea to reach out to the social workers in the school district and see if there were families in need. Minor Mobley said the response was immediately welcoming and emotional and they soon heard back from several more administrators and social workers with lists of families that would benefit from the program.

During the organization’s first year, neighbors and volunteers helped Big Hearts provide 80 children in District 303 with Christmas gifts.

Big Hearts is entirely funded by donations, volunteers and sponsorships. Mobley said over the years hundreds of sponsors and thousands of volunteers have donated their time and money to District 303 children through Big Hearts.

For the first few years, Big Hearts of Fox Valley was just the name for the charity work being done by Excel Auto. However, as it grew, the Mobleys decided to apply to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Jennifer Mobley serves as president of Big Hearts and runs the day to day operations.

“We didn’t expect it to be so popular the first year,” Minor Mobley said. “It’s crazy to see how it has blown up over the years.”

As the nonprofit gained traction each year, Big Hearts expanded to offer more ways to support students in need. In recent years, they introduced toy and coat drives and Big Hearts Throughout the Year. Approaching their 10th holiday season, Big Hearts has served thousands of community children and families.

Through Warm Coats & Warm Hearts, Big Hearts each year provides hundreds of new winter coats, hats, gloves, boots and snowpants to children in need, using donations to buy items when they go on clearance each spring.

Warm Coats & Warm Hearts is different from many coat drives in that it does not accept used items and is selective in the coats bought to ensure children are receiving something they will be proud to wear. The philosophy behind this is that they believe that while keeping warm is important for one’s health, feeling comfortable around one’s peers is important for their hearts – hence the name.

District 303 social workers and administrators can identify children who they notice may need basic items such as clothing and toiletries, or families may fill out an application to receive help.

United States Marine Corps veteran Minor Mobley owns Excel Automotive Repair in St. Charles and co-founded Big Hearts Fox Valley with his wife, Jennifer.

Mobley said the extreme generosity of their sponsors and volunteers is a big part of what makes the organization so special. He said they try to keep the gift lists under a budget, but the kids almost always end up getting more than they asked for. He said over the years people have donated bikes, musical instruments, gaming consoles and countless other big ticket items that weren’t even on their lists.

St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek said she has volunteered with Big Hearts several times at gift wrapping events since she was an alderperson and has spoken at ceremonies where Mobley was honored with awards for his work in the community.

“For Jennifer and Minor to have started this on their own and developed it into what it is now is an accomplishment to be very proud of,” Vitek said. “They’re super dedicated, passionate people who want to give back to the community and are always willing to help.”

Vitek described Minor Mobley as a passionate Marine, go-getter and highly motivated person who cares for the community and will do anything he sets his mind to.

“He’s done a lot for St. Charles,” Vitek said. “Especially around the holidays when a lot of people are struggling, he definitely prioritizes other people.”