Gray Power: Car donations a kind choice

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Regina Allison, Program Director &045; Family Coaches Program, asks you to picture this: You trained hard. You acquired the skills you need for the job you want. You wrote a great r/sum/. You had a fantastic interview. And now you&8217;ve got a new job! Everything is great! You&8217;re on your way to self-reliance … taking care of your family just the way you want to.

Except one thing: You have no way to get to your new job. Transportation is something that most of us can and do take for granted. Where public transportation is scarce, many people have their own vehicles. Where public transportation is abundant and well-integrated, most people can easily navigate to work, school, shopping, child care and recreation without personal vehicles.

However, many low-income families don&8217;t have vehicles or access to reliable transportation. All across the country, the transportation barrier stations itself ominously between a willing worker and a job that offers greater self sufficiency. No matter how reliable a person is, unreliable transportation means sporadic attendance. Sporadic attendance can mean job loss. Job loss threatens to throw a person struggling to become self-sufficient back into the grinding wheels of welfare.

We observe the same barrier with participants in the Family Coaches Program (FCP). Without exception, transportation is one need expressed by most of our participants. From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2005, 59-68% of our participants indicated that the need for transportation is a major priority. For most of them, this means trying to obtain a vehicle – a reliable vehicle. But obtaining a reliable vehicle has its own set of barriers – namely money. The transportation barrier can be removed if we work together. FCP, with the help of a lot of concerned people in communities throughout Alabama, has helped many people overcome the transportation barrier. Over the past three years, FCP has been able to donate 16 cars to FCP participants.

How can FCP give cars away? Through its vehicle donation program, FCP receives donated vehicles from community people and gives those vehicles to participants in FCP. When FCP receives a vehicle, we send an announcement to participating counties to let them know about the availability of the vehicle. FCP coordinators or mentors nominate participants to receive the vehicle based on the participants&8217; progress in achieving their goals toward self-reliance. After participants are nominated, a committee reviews all of the applications, which include participants&8217; statements and supporting documents, and makes a very difficult choice among many deserving people.

While the participants are the obvious &8220;winners,&8221; we want to mention a particular way that a person who donates a vehicle can win. The good feeling of knowing you helped someone notwithstanding, a donor can benefit financially.