Nonprofit Puts Struggling Families In Driver’s Seat

TAMPA – Labor Day held special meaning for 20 families who now can do their jobs in a way they never could before.

They received cars from the Wheels of Success nonprofit organization at the Family Justice Center, 9309 N. Florida Ave., on Monday morning.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Mary Maurio, who received one of the donated cars. “This means freedom for me. I take the bus, so I get up at 5 o’clock to be at work at 8 o’clock. To be able to go anywhere on my own without having to ask somebody to take me, it’s overwhelming.”

Wheels of Success started five years ago, when founder and CEO Susan Jacobs was running a staffing agency and discovered people couldn’t get to work. At first, the agency gave away just a few donated cars. Since then it has helped 270 families get reliable transportation, Jacobs said.

“Our goal is to move them forward. They can get a promotion or get a raise because now they’re on time all the time,” Jacobs said.

“The cars are donated by people who want to do something good,” Jacobs said. Dealerships are among the donors. Wheels of Success partner AAA gives the new drivers a free one-year membership and also fills up the cars’ gas tanks.

About half of the recipients are referred to the organization by their employers and the other half learn of the program through social service agencies, Jacobs said.

Shameka Williams learned about the program from her manager. She received a 1993 Lincoln at Monday’s car giveaway event.

“I’m very excited. Now I have a way to get anywhere I want to go now,” she said.