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BABM.com | September 6, 2010

Helping People Get to Where They Want to Go!

Jenny’s job often requires her to deliver legal transcripts to clients in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties--often on an emergency basis--so when Jenny’s car broke down beyond repair, her job was in jeopardy. Jenny’s employer referred her to Wheels of Success (WOS), a local nonprofit agency whose mission is to provide personal transportation solutions by partnering with the community to keep people working and able to sustain their independence.

Wheels of Success obtains vehicles through donation or purchase and restores them to good running condition through the support of community partners in the automotive industry. Clients receiving a vehicle “buy” it from the program by making low monthly payments for a year, based on ability to pay and by contributing volunteer hours to advance the WOS program. In addition to providing vehicles, the agency provides vehicle repairs and car care classes, as well as financial assistance with licensing, auto insurance, car payments and down payments. Their services directly lead to tangible results such as continued employment; promotions; pay increases and overtime; affording groceries, rent and utility payments and an enhanced quality of life for each of their recipients.

Since its inception in 2003, Wheels of Success has provided 346 vehicles and an additional 365 car-related services to families to prevent their lives from skidding out of control.

Having an affordable, reliable vehicle can make the difference between getting a good job with benefits and the possibility for advancement, or getting stuck in a minimum wage job with no health insurance and poor future growth opportunities. It can help families to reach lower-priced goods and services in the suburbs and makes them less vulnerable when traveling at night and in emergencies.

Applicants for the program must be working full time and be referred by their employer or a social service agency. Partnering with Jenny’s employer, Kanabay Court Reporters, proved to be a win-win situation. Jenny’s vehicle made her a far more valuable employee. Not only was Jenny able to get to work on time every day and fulfill her delivery responsibilities, her role has evolved and she has been promoted to a salaried employee.

According to Jenny, “Wheels of Success has changed my life. As a single mother of two young children and a job that required me to transport boxes of supplies, I needed something big. My first car was a van. It was perfect for me! I had the van for almost a year, and then the transmission went. I figured they were going to tell me, "Sorry, we did all we could.” But they didn't. They helped me find yet another car! With a donation from my bosses and the caring service from Wheels, I now have an SUV that I think I love more than my van!”

Jenny added, “I can’t even imagine where I would be without this help. It is very freeing and liberating to get in your car and go and not have to wait for a bus or call somebody for a ride--to just be able to say to my kids, ‘come on, guys, let’s go,’ and be able to go. It has made me feel independent as a mother, as an employee and as a person.”

Jenny’s employer, Donna Kanabay, President of Kanabay Court Reports, is very pleased with the partnership with WOS. “I have observed Jenny gain poise and confidence with each month and each year of her time with us, and I know that Wheels of Success is, to a very large degree, responsible for her personal, professional, and emotional growth. It is a pleasure and a joy to watch the young, insecure, scared and broke young girl who came to work for us blossom into a confident, secure, poised young woman.”

The Wheels of Success motto is “Working Wheels Keep Families Working,” so the Labor Day holiday has special significance for the nonprofit organization. More vehicles are presented to clients on this day than any other throughout the year. This year, 55 families received assistance with their transportation needs—either with a “new-to-them” vehicle or a needed repair to a vehicle they already owned.

Because of the downturn in the economy, more people than ever are in need of the services provided by the agency. Although vehicle donations have not decreased over the past year, the vehicles they are receiving are older and in need of more repair than in previous years because people are tending to keep their vehicles for a longer period of time. Although WOS partners with local repair shops that provide discounted rates for labor--and their vehicle parts are purchased at dealer cost--even with the negotiated rates, the average cost to repair each vehicle provided to their clients has increased to $1200.

Wheels of Success depends on support from the community to keep the wheels rolling. They accept vehicles in any condition—from classics to clunkers—running or not. WOS even has a partnership with AAA Auto Club South that allows them to pick up your vehicle at no charge to you—or to them.

Donating a vehicle to Wheels of Success affords the maximum allowable tax credit opportunity (fair market value) since the majority of their donations are given to working families rather than being sold. To make a vehicle or financial donation, please call 813-490-9443 or visit their website: www.wheelsofsuccess.org.

Wheels of Success is working hard to be the driving force in helping to keep Tampa Bay’s workforce on the job and on the road to success. As Founder & CEO Susan Jacobs is fond of telling her clients, “This might not be your dream car, but hopefully it will get you to your dreams.”

 
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