Tampa, Florida – With vehicles lined up and balloons flying in the wind, the scene outside the Family Justice center in Tampa looked like a used car lot. But nothing’s for sale here; these cars are freebies.
And inside the building, keys are lined up on a table and excitement is in overdrive, as one after another, people are called forward to receive them.
On this Labor Day, 20 people get to check out a new ride. “I like it, it’s cute,” says Christina Matthews with a laugh, while settling in behind the wheel.
The Wheels of Success program takes in donated cars, fixes them up and the next thing you know people like Tiasha Lovett are all revved up.
“I am very happy, very blessed. Thank God. It’s a wonderful day,” she says.
Lovett will be putting her Saturn to good use. “This vehicle is very important for me and my family, so I can get back and forth to work and I’m planning to start college in January for nursing,” says Lovett.
Lovett loves her new wheels, but there is one, sticky problem. “I have no idea how to drive a stick, but I guess I’ll learn today,” she says with confidence.
For Charlie Braughton, turning the key means he’ll be able to drive to work and get his son with asthma to the doctor. “Oh yes, I’ve definitely been waitin’ big time, I’ve been waitin’ for this moment. Thank God for Wheels of Success,” Braughton says.
In the parking lot horns blare, but these are certainly happy honks.
Back to Lovett, she’s behind the wheel talking to herself. “I can do this,” she shifts into first and lets up on the clutch. The car jumps forward and then dies. A second try goes better and before long Lovett is circling the parking lot.
Lovett may be off to a jerky start, but for her family this car will still mean a much smoother ride.
People who donate cars receive a tax break and there is always a waiting list for recipients. To find out more about Wheels of Success click here.
WTSP Tampa Bay’s 10