Local Nonprofit Provides Vehicles for Families in Need

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Imagine waking up early and taking three buses just to get to work. For some Baltimore residents, this is a reality. But a local organization aims to change the lives of these individuals by providing them with keys to their own car, thus setting them on the road to financial independence.

Vehicles for Change is an organization that is committed to selling refurbished vehicles to low-income families at low costs. Once a vehicle is donated to VFC, they repair it and ensure that it passes through state inspection. Then, by partnering with various shelters, job training and job readiness organizations, the group identifies certain low-income individuals in dire need of reliable transportation to get them to their jobs. The cars are then sold to these people for $700 and they receive a 12-month loan.

"Our goal is to get them a car that they're going to get two years or 24,000 miles out of," VFC President Martin Schwartz told the AFRO in a recent interview.

Since its inception in 1999, VFC has impacted the lives of over 9,000 individuals throughout Virginia and nine counties in Maryland. The organization recently presented vehicles to two Baltimore women whose financial income would have been in limbo had it not had been for the vehicles they received.

"We're thrilled to continue our mission of empowering Maryland families to live more independent lives by providing them with the opportunity to seek and maintain gainful employment," Schwartz said in a statement.

VFC recently teamed with Wal-Mart, as the mega-corporation donated $35,000 to further assist in their efforts to provide reliable vehicles to local residents. "The only way we can award cars for $700 to families is if we can get some subsidized foundation money, so Wal-Mart stepping up and providing that [donation] allowed us to award 15 more cars to families in the area that we would have not been able to do," Schwartz said. "It's a great partnership and Wal-Mart does a lot more for the community than they really get credit for."

Wal-Mart Regional Supervisor Rhoda Washington believes the corporation's assistance to the VFC program provides her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch the lives of people right within her community. "I'm from Maryland and I was raised [here]," Washington said. It is a very humbling and tremendous opportunity to be a part of."

For Schwartz, seeing the families' reactions after receiving their cars is enough satisfaction for him. "It's like they're 16 again, they get so excited," he said.

At Baltimore's recent VFC event, Schwartz noticed the reaction a son had when his mother received a vehicle. With his mother's new car, he is now able to play basketball at his local high school. "To see that young fellow being really excited to know that his dream of being able to play basketball was going to come true…there's no other feeling like it,” Schwartz said.

For more information on Vehicles for Change, visit: www.vehiclesforchange.org.