Wheels of Success keep on turning
Ernest Hooper | St. Petersburg
January 21, 2011
A friend once asked if I knew the two saddest
words in the world.
After too many guesses, he offered a simple
answer: What party?
For me, the little joke resonated because
I want to get invited to every celebration.
I may not get to every party, but it's
nice to think the host thought to include
Given my love for a good time, you have
to know I jumped when Wheels of Success
executive director Susan Jacobs extended
an invite to her Groovy Aquarian Birthday
Bash on Jan. 28.
Like Jacobs, I'm an Aquarian and the date
of her fundraiser/friendraiser is one day
shy of my birthday. She went on to explain
that the nonprofit bash will celebrate
five clients, including three who will
get keys to cars.
I looked at Jacobs and said, "You
had me at groovy."
Still, she suggested I share the story
of Brenda Banks.
Banks leaves her South Pasadena house
at 5 a.m. every weekday and trudges to
a bus stop to make her way to the Girls
Inc. of Pinellas headquarters in Pinellas
On a good day, she arrives at 6:55 a.m.
after walking a mile from the bus stop.
Banks works a split shift, but doesn't
bother trying to get home after her first
stint wraps up at 9:30 a.m. She stays at
Girls Inc. and waits for the second shift
to begin at 1 p.m. Unfortunately, she has
to leave a little early — around
5 p.m. — to catch the last bus and
get home by 7 p.m. to see her three children:
Austyn, 15, Danielle, 12, Nicolas, 7.
Banks' mom takes Danielle and Nicolas
to school, but Austyn rides his bike to
school before the sun comes up.
"It's hard for me because I'm a very
overprotective mom," Banks said Thursday. "It
took me a lot of cries to get over the
fact I had to send my son to school in
The struggle started a few years ago after
she took her income tax return and bought
a car at a buy-here, pay-here lot. Seemingly
from the day she drove off the lot, the
car gave her troubles.
At the shop after yet another breakdown,
the mechanic asked for $1,500. Two days
later, Banks learned someone had rolled
the odometer back.
"At that point, I got really frustrated
and I almost gave up because I didn't want
to deal with it anymore," Banks said. "When
you don't have very much money, you have
to get something less than reliable and
it just causes more problems."
Come Jan. 28, Banks will strap into a
Honda CRV courtesy of a Brandon resident
who read a previous Times story about Wheels
of Success. Banks will own the car after
volunteering for the group and making minimal
monthly payments for a year.
Trust me, I don't need much of a reason
to celebrate surviving another year, but
the thought of Banks driving her kids in
that car will make my birthday a little
That's all I'm saying.
If you go
Groovy Aquarian Bash
When: Jan. 28, 6-10 p.m. at Centre Club,
123 S West Shore Blvd.
Tickets: $40, or two for $75 in advance,
$50 each the day of event. Aquarians get
in free with a paying guest. (Cost is $20
for Aquarians who don't bring a paid guest).
Need more? wheelsofsuccess.org, or (813)
on St. Petersburg Times