Paying off a car loan is a great feeling. There’s a sense of freedom as well as a feeling of ownership, as Tracey Thomas learned recently.
Thomas was the first recipient of a car from Vehicles for Change, Detroit. She paid off her vehicle loan five months ahead of schedule and is now the proud owner of a Saturn Ion.
“Through this program, I am now able to drive to work and be to work on time every day,” said Detroiter Tracey Thomas, a caregiver at Fresh Start Transitional Housing, who paid off her loan at the end of March 2016. “In fact, this has allowed me to acquire another part-time job. It has opened up doors for me. I recommend the program to anyone.”
Thomas’s vehicle was donated to Vehicles for Change, Detroit by Harry Godlewski Jr. of Washington Township, Michigan. “I heard about Vehicles for Change on the radio. What attracted me was how the person was going to get the vehicle after it was repaired. They don’t go out and scrap a car, but the donation has a purpose,” said Godlewski Jr., a Detroit area pharmacist.
Vehicles for Change was founded in the Baltimore, Maryland area by Martin Schwartz, a cousin of former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. The program sells low-cost vehicles to qualified applicants, helping them achieve much-needed transportation.
Vehicles for Change guarantees low-interest car loans, under $1,000, helping recipients build credit while achieving pride of ownership. Additionally, the vehicles are repaired as needed before being sold and carry a six-month/6,000-mile warranty. The Detroit program is the first national expansion of Vehicles for Change and started last year.
Thomas was referred to Vehicles for Change, Detroit by one of its human service organizations partners, Southwest Economic Solutions.
“In connecting folks to jobs, the challenge is always transportation. Studies have shown that many of these jobs are outside Detroit proper, so people have to leave the city to work at entry level positions,” said Hector Hernandez, Executive Director of Detroit nonprofit Southwest Economic Solutions, whose group works to promote and preserve home ownership and advances workforce development and adult literacy among its services and programs.
“We were attracted to partner with Vehicles for Change because of their multi-prong strategy. There is a training component in their model, where they will train mechanics to provide high quality, low cost repairs and add employment to the community,” Hernandez added.
Vehicles for Change, Detroit also partners with Matrix Human Services, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, and Belle Tire, who is helping to repair donated cars.