By Mary Shedden
Tampa Tribune | April 28, 2007
Helps Drive Worker Success
TAMPA - When Kacelia Clark pulled the early
shift at work, she never left before saying
The longtime McDonald's employee knew her
4 a.m. walk along busy Fletcher Avenue was
dark and dangerous. The mother of two had no
car, no bus to ride and no choice if she wanted
to keep her job.
"I'd pray every day," she said. "I
would pray before I went outside to make sure
I got to work."
Clark's fear of the pre-dawn trek ended this
week when through the local Wheels of Success
program she purchased her first vehicle, a
white 1997 Ford Taurus.
"Now I can do my own job and not wait
on somebody else," said Clark, recently
named an assistant manager at the restaurant.
Hers is one of the 125 stories of working
poor individuals assisted by Wheels of Success
since 2003. The nonprofit organization provides
and repairs donated used cars for low- and
moderate-income workers able to make small
And she's the 12th McDonald's employee able
to buy a car in the past year, said Allison
Casper Adams, owner-operator of 52 McDonald's
restaurants in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas
The company is one of several to team up with
Wheels of Success, which held an awards luncheon
Friday to recognize companies supporting the
Adams spoke with The Tampa Tribune about how
transportation is one of McDonald's biggest
work force concerns.
Have you always been aware that transportation
or the lack of it affected your work force?
It's always been an issue. I was a store manager,
and people couldn't come to work because they
missed the bus, or they couldn't work certain
hours because the bus didn't run. We have 14
restaurants open 24 hours, and the others open
at 5 a.m., so it's tough unless they have a
way to work.
Caspers Co. offers employees discounted bus
passes and covers cab fare in emergencies.
But assistant and store managers - the top
paying jobs - must have a car for making bank
deposits or visiting other McDonald's locations.
Why is it essential that people wanting to
move up in many companies have their own car?
We recognized many, many years ago how important
transportation was in reliability. We started
giving our full managers company cars after
they've been a manager for six months. We know
that they're the top dog. If they're not there,
then we're really in trouble.
Between 75 percent and 85 percent of your
2,500 employees are adults, including many
single mothers. Does not having a car affect
their ability to juggle family and flexibility?
What happens is not so much that they can't
get there. Oftentimes they live very close
to the restaurant. It's that they can't work
those extended hours. They can't be there at
5 in the morning. And for them to be [an assistant]
manager, with the maximum amount of pay, they
have to have a car.
Employees with transportation problems struggle
to get to work on time, sometimes losing their
job. But why should business owners be concerned
about it, since transportation ultimately is
the worker's responsibility?
If they don't have a car, well, they can't
come to work, and they lose their job, and
so it's like a Catch-22 for them. Now they
don't have any way to make money to fix that
car, and it's terrible. It's very frustrating.
The environment has just changed. The unemployment
rate is so low in Florida, and we just have
to deal with people issues. We've got to be
a lot more aware about what's going on in employees'
lives. To get them into the restaurant and
get them hired to begin with is huge. And to
keep them there, it's really important. This
[program] is making their lives easier.
When an employee gets their own car, it creates
a level of independence. How does that affect
their productivity, self-esteem and the success
of your business?
They are so much better. It
helps them in their personal life. They are
able to run errands, go to the doctor, do
what they need to do. They are reliable. I
keep saying it, but it is so true. At our restaurant,
if one person is missing, chaos can ensue.
It's like missing a wheel when someone is
not there. When our restaurants are running
poorly, it's a horrible environment to work
in. No one wants to be there. It's just like
you're spiraling down. It really has a great
impact when everybody is able to be there on
For information about Wheels of Success, call
(813) 417-1090 or visit www.wheelsofsuccess
Reporter Mary Shedden can be reached at (813)259-7365