giveaway to help working poor
Lenora Lake | TBO.com
September 3, 2011
TAMPA -- Ashley McDuffie can hardly wait
to get her first car.
Each morning, McDuffie, 20, and a former
foster child, must get her 1-year-old brother,
whom she has custody, to day care and try
to make it to Hillsborough Community College.
But the bus schedule often makes her late
for her classes, where she is pursuing
an associate's degree in child care.
Come Monday, McDuffie's mode of transportation
will change because she is one of 55 individuals
or families who will receive a car at the
sixth annual Working Wheels Keep Families
Working event. The vehicles will be presented
during Florida's Largest Home Show at the
Tampa Convention Center.
"It's going to be so much easier," said
McDuffie, who took the bus to Brewster
Vocational School where she earned a certificate
in child care, but wants the associate's
degree so that she can eventually open
her own day care center. "It's going
to be a real life for me and for Junior
"Now I'm rushing to get him to the
day care center and he'll be the last kid
there picked up," said McDuffie, who
was in foster care from ages 15 to 18 and
now in an independent, transitional program
for former foster children.
Sponsored by the nonprofit Wheels of Success
program, in cooperation with the Ryan Nece
Foundation, the event awards vehicles to
low- and moderate-income people who have
been referred by different agencies to
the organization. The recipients must be
working or attending school.
All recipients must make no-interest payments
for a year and donate at least five hours
a month of volunteer service to Wheels
McDuffie will pay $25 a month, a little
less than the average payment because she
is a student, said Susan Jacobs, founder
of Wheels of Success.
The organization accepts donations of
working and nonworking vehicles. It has
the cars restored and helps the recipients
secure a driver's licenses and insurance.
Jacobs said the organization, since its
founding in 2003, has distributed more
than 400 vehicles and has helped more than
400 other people with car repairs or other
Jacobs said the organization has helped
former foster children get cars for two
years, but now is receiving requests from
more "unaccompanied youth," those
18 to 20 with no family involved in their
This year's distribution will be made
in public for the first time. The ceremony
also will include the awarding of vehicle
titles to those who got cars last year
and have made all payments.
Wheels of Success board member Luis De
La Torre helps arrange the repairs and
gives car care classes to the recipients.
"It really makes it all worthwhile
when you meet the recipients and hear their
stories," De La Torre said.