Abell Salutes: Vehicles for Change Inc.

Salutes / Workforce Development

The family car as a vehicle for improving family life.

Can a family car improve the quality of life for the family? Vehicles For Change (VfC), a program that puts a car within reach of any family that needs one, makes the claim that ownership of a car can, and often does, make a critical difference. VfC has data that make their case.

VfC, serving Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Caroll counties, is modeled after Cars for Careers, created by Martin Schwartz in Howard County. With funding by The Abell Foundation, VfC solicits donated cars, repairs them, and then sells them at minimal cost to welfare mothers and the working poor. Applicants must have a job or a job offer to be eligible to purchase a car. VfC also arranges for financing, and maintenance of the cars for a six-month period following the sale.

Since March 2000, when the program began in Baltimore City, VfC has provided 41 cars to city families. The agency’s survey shows that throughout the areas VfC serves, 73 percent of participants in the program have obtained more lucrative jobs, increasing annual income on the average of $4,127; 92 percent feel “more independent, enjoy increased opportunities in the workplace, are able to spend more time with the family; 100 percent now drive their children to doctors’ appointments, day care, and after school activities.”

According to Schwartz, “They feel better about themselves and the independence they have gained, and what they are doing for their children. The families report that they are attending religious services on a regular basis, they are able to care for aging family members, and are spending more time with family. Altogether, they feel they can now strengthen their family structure.

“Not only are they making a better life for themselves and their families, they are saving taxpayers millions of dollars. The average family of three costs the state $9,648 in temporary cash assistance and food stamps each year, using Carroll County as a model.”

The Abell Foundation salutes Vehicles for Change and its driving force, Martin Schwartz, for seeing the possibilities of a family car as a vehicle to improve family life.