Working Wheels for Working Families (WW4WF) has blessed Teryn Mitchem and her family in many ways.
Mitchem is a single, full-time working mother of a 1-year-old and a kindergartener, and she had to rely on family and friends to find rides to get her daughter to daycare, her son to school and herself to work every day.
"Eventually, I felt forced to leave my job and stay home because I was barely breaking even, and I felt like I had run out of favors for rides," she said.
She then received a letter in September from newly founded WW4WF saying that a vehicle had been donated for Mitchem and her kids.
"It changed everything for us and I'm now back to working full time at my old job," Mitchem said.
Julie Beck founded WW4WF in September, in the hopes of helping those like Mitchem.
It's a "nonprofit organization that repairs and provides donated cars to low-income families so they may gain or maintain employment."
"It stands to help a lot of struggling, single mothers and single fathers who are working, but have no vehicle in their household," Beck said. "My hope is to eventually create a specific subset of programs that assist working veterans, victims of domestic violence and youth aging out of the foster care program."
Beck said she was inspired by Mitchem and wanted to start the program because she wanted to apply the skills she's gained in different areas of her career in sales, marketing and communication.
"I wanted to take the skills I've learned and apply them to something that helps the
community," she said.
She modeled WW4WF from various aspects of similar programs across the United States.
The program helps those at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, who work at least 30 hours a week or 25 hours if they're a student.
Families are screened through a review process, which also determines vehicle needs.
Selected recipients must successfully complete training in job skills, money management and vehicle maintenance.
They may have the opportunity to be matched with a lender for a low-interest loan.
"It's not an entitlement program," Beck said. "There will be some sort of investment made by the recipient over the course of a year, which is handled on a case by case basis."
Beck said she's currently piloting the program in Cole County, but hopes to eventually expand across the Mid-Missouri region.
Ann Bax, president of the United Way of Central Missouri, said transportation is probably the utmost unmet need in the community.
"We have clients who struggle with that on a daily basis," she said.
She said that while some of the United Way's 24 partner agencies may have at some point found a vehicle for a family, none of them specifically address transportation needs.
She said the United Way in the past has addressed the need with bus passes.
"I think it's (WW4WF) is an incredible undertaking and commend Julie and people helping who are taking a hard look at this unmet need," Bax said.
Beck said WW4WF is looking for stakeholders and board members for the nonprofit.
"We're also trying to create a network of mechanics, salvage yards and auto part stores," she said. "But, vehicles are our most important donation needed."
Vehicles can be running or inoperable. Non-repairable ones will be salvaged for parts or program proceeds.
Donors may be able to deduct the donation for the full fair-market value of the vehicle on their tax returns.
"My goal is to see this program as a united community effort consisting of local businesses, volunteers, schools and individuals that have a desire to help," Beck said.
For more information about WW4WF or if you'd like to make a donation, contact Beck at 690-6484, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the nonprofit's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/workingwheelsforworkingfamilies.
Additional program requirements:
• Must be 200 percent of federal poverty level or meet program income requirements
• Must have a valid Missouri drivers' license
• Must be insurable and have no DWIs or DUIs
• Must have a job or job offer working at least 30 hours a week
• Must not have any other vehicle in your household
• Must be able to cover fees for taxes, tags and title