A new program helps people get on the road
COLUMBIA – A car may be a simple luxury many take for granted, but those without one often face hurdles.
The City of Columbia teamed up with the National Hope Association to launch the first donated car program, Cars 4 Columbia.
“Throughout the course of the past three years, we’ve had a number of meetings within the low-moderate income neighborhoods to talk about issues that we need to overcome,” said James Whitt, the director of Supplier Diversity Program Development. “One of the things that popped up consistently within these neighborhoods was the issue of transportation.”
Maricella De Leon understood this issue on a personal level.
“For us, it wasn’t just one thing, it was a lot of things that went wrong at the same time with our car. Where am I going to come up with 6,000 dollars?” De Leon said.
De Leon and her husband struggled getting to and from work.
“It’s hard when you can’t get where you need to, even to go buy groceries. If you can’t go buy groceries, what are you supposed to do? If you can’t get to work, then how are you supposed to make money to buy groceries. It’s just a spiral effect that can get really bad really fast. It was very stressful,” De Leon said.
De Leon said faith was her saving grace in dealing with this stress.
“I just prayed. I said, 'you know what Lord? I need a good dependable car,'” she said.
The National Hope Association heard the outcry for better transportation.
National Hope Association Board President Michael Lindsey said, “Public transportation is simply just not adequate in these areas. Everyone understands that lack of transportation is one of the key barriers in keeping people in poverty or on government subsidy.”
Whitt said the city is happy to endorse Cars 4 Columbia because it fits with the city’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.
The program kicked into gear on March 21 by donating 2 cars.
De Leon was one of the lucky recipients.
“It was a huge blessing and it was unexpected. I just got the call and I was pinching myself like okay, is this for real?” De Leon said.
Cars 4 Columbia plans on giving away three cars every 45 days and recipients can upgrade their cars in later phases in the program.
Lindsey said Cars 4 Columbia changes people’s lives.
“It makes a big impact in the terms of the people that it touches. When you give a car to somebody that’s a big thing,” Lindsey said.
Whitt said there are plenty of people that need cars and they will do their best to offer services that help people succeed.
Lindsey said “the sky is the limit” in what this program can do.
“I still can’t believe it, it feels like a dream. It is a true answered prayer. It’s just a big blessing,” De Leon said.