I used to work in downtown Raleigh. I drove in on South Saunders St and about 5 years ago, I first noticed a business called Wheels4Hope. It had a parking lot full of older cars, a few of which had price tags on them. I was curious about it and looked it up, read that they take donated cars and repair them and then place them with families in need. I said to myself, “That’s a neat idea”, and then didn’t really think much else about it.
In 2014, I had begun a job search and responded to an ad for an opening at W4H. I remembered reading about them before, did the usual research and due diligence in finding out more as I prepared for an interview to be the Executive Director. I felt confident that my 25 years in non-profit management and my knowledge about and enthusiasm for cars would convince the Board I was the right person.
On the day of my interview, I arrived early (as you should) and was seated in the waiting room with a young woman. She complimented me on my bag, and we struck up a conversation. I asked her if she had received a car from W4H, and she said she had a few months earlier and was in the office for her complimentary oil change.
I asked her if she liked her car and how the car had helped her. She loved her car. She had made some bad decisions in her life, ended up homeless, and worked her way back up through the help of one of our many partners. The car was allowing her to get more hours at work, but more importantly for her, it was providing opportunities for her children that they had never had and it was allowing her to make sure her autistic son received the care he needed. She said several times how much the car meant to her and her family, and the sincerity and appreciation she had for W4H was incredibly moving. I knew that if this simple act of selling a car to someone could have this kind of meaningful impact, then this was where I needed to be.
When I ask recipients what is the first thing they are going to do with the car, I don’t get answers like go to Disneyland. They tell me “now I can get more than 2 bags of groceries” or “now my daughter can be in the after school book club because she has a ride home”.
This makes me think “What is a typical week like for me?”
How would I do this without a car?
Let me tell you another story. Tracy works in Cary; he lives in SE Raleigh in transitional housing. He has to be at work at midnight because he is 3rd shift. He catches a bus at 8pm, transfers several times and arrives at work at 10pm. He waits at his workplace for two hours until his shift starts. At 8am, he gets on the bus for the almost 2 hour ride home. In a car, this trip takes 15 minutes.
When Tracy got a car from Wheels4Hope, he got 5 hours of his day back. He can now spend time with his daughter and is looking into taking some classes. Not only did the car help him advance his life, it also allowed him to have some free time, time to relax and slow down.
There are lots of great charities that take car donations and sell those cars to fund their good work. Wheels4Hope takes car donations, recycles those cars, and transforms people’s lives.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this work.