Rooted in the idea that affordable, reliable transportation options can truly transform the lives of working families, nonprofit Working Wheels has been operating in our region for more than eight years. “Cars are the missing piece in many people’s struggle to create a sustainable existence for themselves,” says executive director Jamie Beasley. “The need for dependable cars and affordable repairs is overwhelming.”
Working Wheels partners with 17 local social service agencies to identify individuals who are facing a transportation barrier. Clients must be employed, and many of them are essential workers with families to support. Clients are served through one of two programs: The Vehicle Repair Program, which provides discounted repairs for people who can’t afford to fix a vehicle they already own; and The Vehicle Purchase Program, which provides reliable vehicles at an affordable price.
Shuvonda Harper is a social justice doula, co-founder of Southside Community Farm and a single mother of two teenagers. Her crucial community work and daily life was complicated by a lack of transportation until she was referred to Working Wheels in 2022. The organization made it possible for her to purchase a deeply discounted, pre-owned Pontiac Vibe that has not only made her work easier but also allowed her to contribute even more to her community. “Sometimes people have to catch a couple of buses to get groceries or go out to the VA Hospital, which can add hours to their trip,” Harper says. “That can be hard for older people, so sometimes I just offer that support of transportation.”
Like so many nonprofits, the need for these services far outpaces Working Wheels’ capacity. The organization served nearly 250 clients in 2023 and will expand this year to serve the mounting need for transportation in our region. “I feel privileged to be a participant in the program,” says Harper. “They gave me a chance to be where I needed to be for my children and to do the work I was doing.”
Working Wheels accepts donations of vehicles in any condition as well as financial donations to support their work. “Having a dependable car opens doors to education, employment, access to healthcare and an overall improved quality of life,” says Beasley. “One car and one family at a time, we are making a real difference in people’s lives.”