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Local woman gets Wheels of Success
tbnweekly.com
September 7, 2009

While Labor Day may be a little special for everyone who gets an extra day off work, for one local woman it will be the beginning of a new life.

Jessica Ostrofsky, 31, of St. Petersburg is a single mother with three children. Because she doesn’t have a vehicle of her own, she has to rely on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit system and the help of her friends to get her children to daycare and herself to work at State Farm Insurance each day.

But thanks to Wheels of Success, come Labor Day Ostrofsky will be the proud owner of 1991 Honda Accord.

“It’s absolutely going to change my life,” Ostrofsky said.

Right now her day begins at 5:30 a.m. She catches the first of three buses at 6:55 a.m. to a friend’s house who take her children to daycare. Then she rushes off to make her next bus connections. Still, she usually arrives at work a minute or two late, she said.

It’s a hectic life, but fortunately her boss understands and her friends pitch in even though she pays them for their help.

Ostrofsky learned about Wheels of Success through her CASA advocate. She is currently living in CASA housing after leaving an abusive relationship. Then she took the next step and went online to learn about the program.

“Wheels of Success is dedicated to providing personal transportation solutions by partnering with the community in a circle of support to keep people working and sustain their independence,” according to the nonprofit organization’s mission statement.

Wheels of Success was incorporated in June 2003 to help families obtain or continue work by providing them with reliable transportation through a program of car repairs, vehicle replacement, related licensing services, car payments, down payments and car-care classes in both Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, according to information found on its Web site, www.wheelsofsuccess.com.

Ostrofsky said she asked her boss and her CASA advocate for a referral, and then filled out the Wheels of Success application.

On Monday, Sept. 7, she will be one of 20 who will receive vehicles thanks to the donations of others. She will have to ask her friends for help one more time to take her to the Family Justice Center in Tampa where she’ll receive the keys to her car.

This is the fourth year Wheels of Success will be giving out 20 vehicles to residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties who are employed full-time and in need of transportation-related services to continue working and supporting their families.

This hasn’t been an easy year to find vehicles, according to Gregg Laskoski, managing director of public relations for AAA Auto Club South.

Laskoski, who serves on the Wheels for Success Board of Directors, said the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program discouraged many folks from donating their cars.

“Despite the fact that it’s (Cash for Clunkers) jacked up used car prices, we’ve managed again to receive some donated vehicles and raise enough money to be able to give out 20 vehicles to local residents who are employed full-time and in need for transportation to avoid joining the ranks of the unemployed in Tampa Bay,” he said.

Ostrofsky said as part of her job at State Farm Insurance she is in contact with car dealers who explained to her that a requirement of the Cash for Clunkers program was that any car traded in had to be destroyed, meaning it could not be used for donations to worthy causes like Wheels for Success or dismantled for parts.

Recipients of Wheels for Success vehicles don’t get their new ride for free. They buy it from the program by making monthly payments based on ability to pay, as well as donating five service hours per month to the organization.

Ostrofsky is really excited about getting her new car. She won’t have to worry about the problems of getting her children to daycare or herself to work. The nightmare of having to spend hours on a bus just to get to a doctor’s appointment and paying her friends to take her to the grocery store will be all in her past.

She said her kids were excited and she was looking forward to being able to do more things together as a family.

“This is going to make me totally independent,” she said. “That’s been my main goal. I can’t wait.”

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