Those Who Need Reliable Cars
The Tampa Tribune
Judy Hill – January 29, 2004
Susan Jacobs hears the same story over and
It's coming from an increasingly broad front
From people who work hard for a living.
Who try to do everything "right." They
follow the rules as best they can to keep
food on the table, the lights on, the toilets
But they can't get ahead.
"We were barely making it before," they
so often say. "And then..."
That gust of ill wind – the "then"—that
pushes them over the edge is, often, an unexpected
You can't get to child care, to a competitively
priced grocery or drugstore, and most importantly,
you can't get to work without reliable transportation.
Being Poor Is Expensive
When you're poor, however, you usually can't
afford reliable transportation.
The car you can afford to buy – sometimes
from a buy here-pay here car lot that charges
high interest rates that you must pay because
you can't qualify for a traditional auto
loan – has high mileage.
High mileage often equals frequent and expensive
Bus transportation may be no more reliable,
particularly if your job is in one suburb
and you live in another and/or you don't
work during the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jacobs hears such Catch-22 transportation
stories every day in her new role as the
founder and volunteer head of Wheels of Success,
a start-up, grass-roots nonprofit that assists
financially strapped working families by
finding them affordable, reliable transportation.
She also lived the story when she fell on
hard times awhile back.
Jacobs was lucky. A relative helped her
get back on her feet. The folks who contact
Wheels of Success, she says, don't qualify
for any government transportation subsidies,
nor do they have relatives or friends to
fall back on.
Her own financial crisis prompted her empathy
for others with transportation problems.
Later, as a counselor at a staffing agency
that specialized in often low-paying hospitality
industry and clerical jobs, her interest
was spurred in starting Wheels of Success.
"It wasn't unusual to have to take
people to their jobs because their car broke
down," she says.
Since Wheels of Success took to the highway
in October, it has developed a board of directors
and criteria for eligibility. Its 501(c)(3)
tax-exempt status is pending.
It has decided on a "pay it forward" philosophy
that will require recipients of vehicles
to "buy" the auto with charges
based on their ability to pay.
That money will be used to help others in
A number of sponsors also have come onboard
including Wheeler Auto Wholesale, Tampa Tow
and Recovery, Tampa Automotive Service Center
and Casual Living, a division of the Thompson
Co., Jacobs' employer.
Several families also have been assisted
with car repairs or replacement vehicles.
Of course, Wheels of Success needs money,
vehicles, sponsors and volunteers.
For information about the program, visit
its Web site at www.WheelsOfSuccess.org,
or call Jacobs at (813) 417-1820.
If you can help, please do.
Judy Hill can be reached at (813) 259-7812
or by writing her c/o The Tampa Tribune,
P.O. Box 191, Tampa FL 33601.
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