GRANTSVILLE — Aleeseea Jones, a Grantsville resident and college student at Liberty University, is feeling more independent after being recently presented with a car as part of the 20th anniversary celebration for Vehicles for Change.
The nonprofit, in partnership with Heritage MileOne Autogroup, presented 20 families from around the Maryland region with vehicles on June 24, in the hope of continuing to transform lives.
"In my area, in Garrett County, there's not much public transportation. There's no Uber, there's no Lyft. I had to have my family take me to and from work," said Jones, who works as a cashier and self-checkout assistant at Walmart. "I go to school in Virginia. I’m just home for the summer and my plan was to get my car and I got it."
When she goes back to school, she will no longer have to pay for car services anytime she needs to go somewhere, she said.
"Now, I can drive myself to and from places, and pay for my gas and learn what it is to be an adult in this world," Jones said.
Vehicles for Change, which is the largest low-income car ownership program in the country, specializes in providing personal transportation to families in an effort to ease transportation pressures. To date, its awarded over 6,900 cars to families.
"Twenty years ago, transportation was identified as the number one barrier to people living in poverty to gain employment," said Martin Schwartz, president and founder of Vehicles for Change. "Unfortunately, 20 years later it’s still the case."
At the 20th anniversary celebration, Heritage MileOne Autogroup of Owings Mills donated all of the cars, said Schwartz.
Five years ago, the nonprofit started a program where it trains individuals coming out of incarceration to be auto mechanics.
"You cannot put a price tag on the value of changing people’s lives through transportation, and it is very humbling to be able to contribute to so many people whose work ethic, pride and determination to improve their lives is so powerful," said Steven Fader, CEO for MileOne Autogroup.
As well, the auto group has committed over 170 vehicles during its partnership with Vehicles for Change and has hired nine auto technicians from the nonprofit's training program.
"When you talk about trying to navigate life without a car, and then you throw some children in there, it magnifies the issue. How do you get the kids to school, to the doctors office, the grocery store? You can’t do any of those things," said Schwartz, as most of the people who receive cars from the nonprofit are single mothers with small children. "Most people take for granted they’re going to get up in the morning, they’re going to walk out, turn the key and they’re going to go wherever they need to go."
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.