Wheels of Success: A Service That Will Get You Moving

Susan Jacobs founded Wheels of Success in June 2003 to help families obtain reliable transportation in order to sustain a job or get a job. She saw a signifi cant need for dependable transportation in the Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties because current local transportation does not keep up with the demands of
most working individuals.

Jacobs used to run a staffi ng agency and noticed potential employees wanted to work but did not have reliable transportation to uphold the job. She said that most employees had transportation issues and public transportation did not meet their demands because some jobs were at nights and holidays. “The bus system doesn’t run all night or holidays and some jobs require them to work abnormal hours,” said Jacobs.

After witnessing fi rst hand the struggles the employees would have to undergo on a daily basis she decided to start Wheels of Success. Jacobs spent one year doing research and learning how to run a non-profi t organization to make sure her organization would be successful. Wheel for Success provides several services such as programs on car repairs and maintenance, vehicle replacement, licensing services, down payments, car-care classes, etc.

In order to receive aide, clients must be referred by social service agencies, churches, board members or employers. Applicants must have a full time job or a written job offer from the employer. The income level must be above poverty level and they must not be receiving government assistance other than unemployed compensation, Medicaid and food stamps. Above all, clients must agree to “pay it forward”.

The “pay it forward” philosophy was developed a few years ago by Jacobs due to a life changing experience that would make her want to help others. Jacobs left a domestic violence situation and her car got repossessed due to the inability to make the car payments. Jacobs was left without transportation until a complete stranger who owned a used car dealership decided to lend her a car at no cost. “I know how it feels to not have a car, and thanks to a complete stranger I got some help,” said Jacobs. She will be forever thankful to the gentleman who gave a complete stranger a helping hand. “Maybe he just wanted to ‘pay it forward’,” Jacobs said.

According to Jacobs there are several reasons a family might be left without transportation or the means to maintain the vehicle. The spectrum of catastrophic incidents range from abusive relationships, death of a spouse, loss of income to accidents. Jacobs feels that through her personal experience, she is able to relate to the people she wants to help. “I’m doing something I’m really passionate about, I’m fortunate I love what I do” said Jacobs.

Jacobs said the main reason Wheels of Success does not provide free cars is because she wants the clients to value the car and become a responsible vehicle owner. The clients have to agree to a small monthly payment they can afford and once they are done ‘paying it forward’ they are able to continue saving for the future. “Our goal is to help them and teach them all the important aspects of vehicle ownership,” Jacobs said.

Wheels of Success is hoping to help 55 families at their annual Labor Day event on September 6, 2010 at 9 a.m. there are several ways the public can help make this event a success through car donations, monetary donations, volunteering, sponsorship and providing items on their wish list. For more information please go to http://www.wheelsofsuccess.org or call (813) 490-9443.

Krystel Knowles | South Tampa Community News