Vehicle recipient George Wade with his daughter at Good News Garage.
PAWLET —One Pawlet family is finally hitting the road, thanks to their new set of wheels from Good News Garage.
George Wade has been working hard for six years in the Reach-Up program acquiring knowledge, experience and employment assistance, and even attending classes at the Community College of Vermont to learn how to be a production assistant.
Five months ago, with the help of Reach-Up, Wade found full-time employment with Marcille Builders in Bomoseen after working only part-time for a roofing company.
“I found an employment expert. She helped me with résumés and getting into CCV for the college class,” Wade said. “She helped with a lot of things, and she was awesome throughout the whole process. The Reach-Up case manager has been, if I needed anything for work or my daughter ... she was right there. She would point me in the right direction, just working with me having no vehicle and having a daughter I was raising on my own.”
There was a problem, though: His main work site is a 45-minute drive from his family’s home where he and his girlfriend are raising their total of five children, and Wade didn’t have a car.
Which meant he was spending $20 of his paycheck every day for a friend to drive him back and forth.
“There are no buses around here,” said Wade’s girlfriend, Jennifer Birga. “Sometimes he leaves at 4:30 a.m., sometimes at 5. ... Sometimes (his work site) would be an hour away, sometimes four hours away.”
Through his persistence in the Reach-Up program, and the subsequent Reach-Out program, which helps him provide food and resources for himself and his family, Wade became eligible for the Good News Garage, which gives away cars donated by locals to low-income families who might not otherwise have the money to spare for overhead costs and repairs to used cars, not to mention insurance, registration, inspections and roadside assistance, let alone gas.
“While they’re here, learning everything from computer training, to reception, to stocking shelves in the community food shelf that we have,” said Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC Community Action in Southwestern Vermont. “They have to report here, ... We’ve placed jobs in everything from nursing to a legal assistant.”
“Their caseworker advocates on their behalf on why they’re deserving,” said Tom Kupfer, marketing specialist for Good News Garage. “(Those with) children, they get their vehicles the most urgently.”
Good News Garage was at the ready, and Wade’s used 2010 Subaru Outback arrived two days before Independence Day this year.
“He’s very excited,” Birga said. “It’s hard with kids. ... (He’s excited) to take his daughter to the park, (they love) swimming, fishing.”
Donahue said acquiring reliable transportation is essential to maintaining employment, especially in rural areas like Vermont.
“The associated cost of maintaining that transportation is more than most people in poverty or with low income can afford,” Donahue said.
But one has to prove to an employer that they can dress correctly, arrive on time and only call out when necessary to build a good career reputation and references, Donahue said, and for that one needs the time to spend, which makes having transportation at their disposal incredibly important.
“It’s a lifeline of support that is transportation,” Kupfer said. Good News Garage has been giving away free vehicles since 1996. “They can’t get anywhere without a reliable vehicle. It’s a lifeline to move forward to get a job, have access to people who are further away. ... It’s good for children who play sports. ... It’s a life-changing experience when these families get these vehicles. It’s something that makes a huge difference.”
Good News Garage accepts all cars, whether they’re running or not, and works with partnering garages to fix them up however they need to be to pass inspection, which usually costs them between $2,000 and $3,000, Kupfer said.
“We’ll tow it away for free,” Kupfer said.
Then once the car is delivered, the new owner is taught how to maintain it, and given a one-year warrantee of free maintenance including tire rotation and head-gasket repairs.
The donors receive a tax donation of at least $500, and in some cases can take the free market value as a write-off, and when the cars that can’t be fixed up or are unusable are sold at auction, the proceeds go back to Good News Garage, which gives away at least one car every week.
This year, Good News surpassed the gift of their 5,000th car.
“We accept all types of cars, trucks, SUVs, boats, motorcycles, mopeds, RVs ... anything to help get a family into a reliable car.”
Ideal cars to be renovated are reasonable family-sized cars, including Subarus, RAV4s and other small SUVs.
“We’ll take luxury cars or vehicles, but they’re often not practical,” Kupfer said. “Something that’s had a good life and still has mileage left on it.”
Donations at present are around 1,200 cars per year, 150 of which are usable, but the national need is continuing to grow, Kupfer said.
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