Donated vehicles help those in need

December 18, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE


It's pretty hard to hold down a job if one doesn't have transportation to get to work every day.

Many people on welfare and other public assistance programs, especially single mothers, face this dilemma every day, but help in the form of a free vehicle might be on the way.

Good News Mountaineer Garage, a nonprofit group in Charleston, W.Va., has been accepting donated vehicles for four years, repairing them and giving them to needy people who are trying to get off public assistance rolls, said Harold Weber, quality assurance manager for the statewide program, who works out of the Charleston office.

The program donated its first vehicle from the Charleston facility in October 2001, Weber said.

Vehicles needing extensive repairs are sent to auctions, Weber said.

"We can't put more money into a car than it's worth," Weber said.

On Dec. 1, the program expanded statewide when it opened regional facilities in Martinsburg, Parkersburg and Lewisburg, Weber said.


Weber was at Trinity United Methodist Church on Saturday with members of the local regional office, waiting for area residents to drive in with cars to donate. The church volunteered use of its parking lot as a collection point for donated vehicles.

By early afternoon, a 1987 Nissan sedan and a 1996 Neon sedan had been donated.

The Mountaineer Garage program is under contract with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services to provide cars for needy people, Weber said.

"We try to match the car with the needs of the people," said Grace Murphy, director of the Martinsburg regional office.

Weber said the Department of Health and Human Services tried several programs, but none worked until the department contracted with Mountaineer Garage. He estimates the program will put vehicles in the hands of about 100 residents from the four regional centers in the next year.

The main center in Charleston has a storage lot with about 40 vehicles, Weber said.

Donated vehicles, after initial repairs, are expected to give recipients two years of good service, Murphy said. Each vehicle leaves with a 30-day warranty. Program officials keep in touch with the new car owners.

The owners are required to return to the center for the first oil change so program officials can determine how well the vehicle is being maintained.

The new owners are responsible for upkeep and repairs after the warranty ends. Program officials provide advice on honest and low-cost repair garages, Weber said.

"When we donate a car to a person, we want them to be able to drive it cross-country," said Frank Danfeldt, quality assurance manager for the Martinsburg office. "We don't want to add a burden to their lives. We want to enrich their lives."

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