Sioux Empire Wheels to Work

A South Dakota Non-Profit Corporation Working in Cooperation with the Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition

Sioux Empire Wheels to Work in the News

September 29, 2007  Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Groups give old cars new lives serving others"

December 7, 2002  Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Wheels to Work helps solve transportation needs"

October 20, 2002  Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Wheels for needy nears end"

May 7, 2001  Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Providing good vehicles helps those struggling"

July 12, 1999   Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Van helps mom leave poverty behind"

 Groups give old cars new lives serving others

Sioux Falls Argus Leader
September 29, 2007
Section: Local News
Page: 3A
Jon Walker
Single parents, asthmatic kids benefit

Donated cars are helping children with asthma and single parents in need.

The help comes as two agencies with Sioux Falls offices collect unwanted vehicles to give them second life in someone else's driveway. The American Lung Association of South Dakota has collected 1,137 cars the past 10 years. Sponsors sell them and use the money for research or sending children to summer camp. Last year, 131 donated cars produced $31,625 when resold for an average of $236. "It's amazing how many people are looking for a car just to get to and from work," said Linda Redder, manager of communications, marketing and special events for the lung association. Sioux Empire Wheels to Work supplies vehicles to single parents who live with their children, have a job or are in school but have no car. The program has helped 200 families since the 1990s. "There's a tremendous need," said chairwoman Karen Hattervig. "We always have at least 12 to 15 people on our waiting list." If a car won't start, the lung association sends a tow truck. A donor signs over the title and later gets a letter telling the price it sold for, which can be an income tax write-off.

A year ago, Chen Chen, a retired biology professor at South Dakota State University, donated a '76 Ford Torino with 50,000 miles. This year he gave up a second car, an '87 Toyota Corolla. "It was sitting in my garage. I'm very happy if people can use it," Chen said.
Linda Munson, a school teacher, donated a Corolla and a Buick her sons had driven in college. "We thought we didn't want to ask anybody to pay anything for them," she said.

Wheels to Work wants only cars that run. The buyer pays a fee for tax, license and title - $150 to $200 for a car worth $2,000 to $2,500, Hattervig said. Donors may call t... Wheels to Work at 941-4318.

Two groups seek cars that owners no longer want to help single parents and children with asthma. Donors may call ... Wheels to Work at 941-4318.

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 Wheels to Work helps solve transportation needs

Sioux Falls Argus Leader
December 7, 2002

By Melanie Brandert

Sharing one car proved a challenge for two young, working parents.

Matt Vander Maten worked at Old Home Bakery, while Laura Geier waitressed at the new Denny's on East 10th Street. "It was kind of hard with both of us working in the morning," Vander Maten said. "She'd always have to find a ride to work in the morning, but I'd always pick her up." "Or I would pick him up at 4 a.m. because I needed to use his car," Geier said. Their schedules became even more difficult when their daughter, Jada, was born 10 weeks ago. Geier solved her transportation woes by purchasing a car through the Wheels to Work program.

The program began distributing donated cars in June 1998. It is one of the Argus Leader's Lend-A-Hand Fund projects. Karen Hattervig, an East River Legal Services attorney and Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition committee chairwoman, recalled once representing two women who had protection orders against their abusive husbands at a hearing for temporary child support. The judge awarded both women custody. "At the time, welfare reform was going in place. The women would have to work and haul two, three kids with them," she said. "Because the man had to pay child support, he got the vehicle." Disheartened when she returned to her office, Hattervig decided to take action and called welfare, community outreach and other agency officials to see if they wanted to work on a committee to get low-income residents vehicles.
The ad-hoc committee conducted a survey to gauge the need for a transportation program. They learned a huge problem existed.  "A lot of people were walking or taking the bus. People who worked at night didn't have transportation." Hattervig said. "People relied on taking bicycles, bumming rides off friends, walking. It works well for summer, but we have nine months of winter."

The program, patterned after one in North Carolina, required applicants to be single parents and have a driver's license. Natalie Rae of the state One-Stop Career Center screened applications. If approved, Lutheran Social Services then took care of the title transfer to the recipient and collected money for the car. If applicants made all one-year payments, the lien was released and they owned it, Hattervig said. Applicants who were ineligible for low-cost insurance would pay $10 toward the car and the rest toward insurance. Handling that paperwork became too burdensome for LSS, which ended its involvement. Earlier this year, Minnehaha County cut $12,000 in annual funds it provided to the program.

When Hattervig sought an agency with a dealer's or banker's license to sell more than five cars a year, a Sioux Falls couple came forward. Phillip and Joan Clark offered to donate $12,000 a year to keep it operating. They gave half the amount and raised the rest from relatives, friends and others, planning to match their contributions, Hattervig said.

Dave and Janelle Swier of Brandon had recently bought newer vehicles when they learned about the program's funding. They had a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice and an '85 Ford 150 pickup with a topper worth $1,400. "We looked at each other and said, `That's where they should go,' " he said. "It wasn't worth anything for a trade-in, but good for someone." Geier, who now works for K-NOPF Assisted Living Center, received the Caprice about two weeks ago.

"As of Jan. 1, we are going to start out fresh," Hattervig said. "We will try to find an agency to handle the loan payment system. We're hoping to find a bank who needs an agency to donate (community) reinvestment funds."

To donate a used vehicle in good condition to the program, call Hattervig at 336-9230.

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 Wheels for needy nears end

October 20, 2002
By Randy Hascall

Section: Sioux Empire
Page: 1B

A Sioux Falls program that provides used cars for poor, working parents is stuck in a rut because of lost funding and support. Wheels to Work, which has lined up low-cost cars for 36 families in its four-year existence, is struggling to survive a tough year. The problem is that Minnehaha County eliminated the $12,000 in annual funding it provided each of the previous three years and Lutheran Social Services has ended its involvement, said Karen Hattervig, one of the program organizers.

"When two cogs fall off, we start wobbling. It's a good program, a good idea, but it's floundering," said Hattervig, a lawyer for East River Legal Services. "It has really made a difference. We'd hate to see it die."

The program is operated by volunteers with help from various agencies and companies. A local car lot supplies vehicles at lower prices than their true value, and they're thoroughly inspected. The consumer credit counseling division of Lutheran Social Services has been responsible for much of the legwork, collecting the cars and transferring titles. The program matches cars with needy, single parents of small children, but the vehicles aren't free. Parents are required to hold jobs and to make monthly payments based on their income. The program arranges low-cost liability insurance and covers that cost for a year. A parent who makes monthly payments for a year receives title to the car, then takes over insurance payments.

The idea is to help single parents become self-sufficient. There are many success stories, Hattervig said. Another active volunteer, Natalie Rae, said the program has made her aware how many working, poor people in Sioux Falls need vehicles. Some work night shifts when bus service isn't available or own a clunker that needs $500 in repairs.
They can't drive their children to a day-care provider or a doctor's office. Thanks to the Wheels to Work program, some children are now able to participate in marching band or other after-school activities because their parents can pick them up afterward.
Hattervig said one child had never been in a grocery store until his mom got a car through the program. Previously, she walked to the store alone and carried groceries home.
"It's been really rewarding for the people we've served," Rae said. "And it's rewarding to us the way we've helped these people." For those assisted by the program, purchasing a vehicle off of a car lot is next to impossible, Rae said.

Since the financially strapped County Commission decided to eliminate funding and LSS decided to end its participation, Wheels to Work volunteers have contacted agencies and churches throughout Sioux Falls to ask for help. There's been very little response, Hattervig said.  Finally, one agency did express interest this week in helping with paperwork and car distribution, although an agreement hasn't been finalized.
"We were about to pull the plug," Hattervig said. "Now there's a glimmer of hope."

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 Providing good vehicles helps those struggling

 Sioux Falls Argus Leader
May 7, 2001
Local Staff

Donation program good for whole community

For some single parents in the Sioux Falls area, getting to work can be more difficult than finding a job.
The city has only limited bus service, and walking or riding a bicycle several miles to a job is not always practical, especially if a child has to be dropped off at a day-care service.
In the past three years, a well-intentioned local program called Wheels To Work has helped provide 26 cars to single parents in the Sioux Falls area to help them get to and from work.
"In the whole, it's been very successful," said Natalie Rae of the state One-Stop Career Center in Sioux Falls, one of the sponsors of the program. "Sometimes it's a struggle, but the end result is, `gee, this really has made a difference in someone's life.' "
Helping the working poor get ahead is a worthwhile effort - one that deserves strong community support. Individuals, organizations and businesses have an opportunity to contribute right now by donating cars or cash to buy cars to the program.
Program sponsors, which also include Lutheran Social Services and the Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition, are looking for a dozen good, used cars to distribute to worthy recipients this year. They want cars that are in decent shape and don't require a lot of repair work.

People with cars to donate should call LeRoy Hofer at LSS Consumer Credit Counseling Services, phone 357-0114. Donors might qualify for a tax deduction.

Cars contributed to the program are not just given away. Program recipients must meet several requirements to qualify for consideration. Only single parents without a vehicle qualify. They must have a job and driver's license, for example. They also must pay maintenance costs, plus $50 a month for one year to help cover liability insurance. After a year, the car belongs to the recipient.

So far, all of the applicants of cars have been women, but men also are eligible.

Residents of the Sioux Falls area who would like to apply for a car may call the One-Stop Career Center at 367-5300 and request an application.

"These are the working poor, trying to get ahead," Rae said.

These are people who want to work, but have to overcome transportation problems. If they succeed, they help move the community ahead. Support Wheels to Work.

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 Van helps mom leave poverty behind

July 12, 1999
Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Steve Young
Front page Wheels to Work Page: 1A

First Wheels to Work recipient says program key to rebuilding life

Sandra Weekly sits at the kitchen table in her east-side Sioux Falls apartment, one child wrapped around her ankle, another hanging on her shoulder while a third reaches for the potato chips. It's suppertime and the natives are hungry. But Weekly, worn thin after a blue-collar day of sorting items at Goodwill, is unfazed.
"Give me a few minutes," she finally responds to the chorus of complaints ringing around her. "Supper's coming."
Some would call that chaos. But not this 30-year-old single parent to four young children. She seems to revel in the hubbub.
For this moment, at least, there is some order in her life. The bills are getting paid. The children have something to eat. And thanks to a program called Wheels to Work, Weekly has regained some control over the poverty that has shaped her existence for years.
"I don't have to depend on other people so much anymore to decide where we go," Weekly says as the noise continues around her. "I've got some independence. That's nice."
Outside her front door, a 1990 Plymouth Grand Voyager sits in the parking lot. A year ago last June, she was given the keys to that vehicle as the first beneficiary of a new endeavor called Wheels to Work.
Wheels was the brainchild of the Sioux Falls Homeless Coalition. It was established initially as a one-year pilot program to help parents with small children who were struggling to get off welfare because of transportation problems.
A survey of 500 low-income people conducted in January 1997 showed that transportation was a major problem in getting off welfare. The poor had no reliable means to get to work. They had no way to run their children to and from day care, or doctor's appointments.
And because many of them had poor credit histories, they had no way to get a loan.
Drivers pick up costs
That's where Wheels to Work came in. The homeless coalition solicited donated vehicles from governmental agencies, nonprofit groups and private individuals. They then ran the vehicles they got through Southeast Technical Institute and J&W Diesel for repair work to make them road-ready.
Six single mothers were selected to receive vehicles that first year - women who were screened by Job Service and who were getting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
But what they received wasn't charity, says Leroy Hofer, a credit counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling who administrates the Wheels to Work program.
Each signed a contract saying she would pay $50 a month - give or take a few dollars - to cover liability insurance, taxes and license fees on her vehicle.
Each sat down with Hofer to discuss her financial situations as well, to work out budgets and to figure out how to pay off bills and thus erase her bad credit history.
A 40-year veteran of the banking industry and past president of the South Dakota Bankers Association, Hofer, 69, is almost like a father to these women.
He makes sure they make their Wheels to Work payments each month. He inspects their vehicles to make sure they are clean and running well. He hounds the women to make repairs if something needs work.
"When I started in the program, I used to wonder, `How am I going to talk to these young women who are what, maybe 30 to 35," Hofer says. "And what I decided was to talk to them like I do my youngest daughter. `Have you checked the oil lately? Have you had a tuneup?' The key is for them to take responsibility."

Discipline offers freedom

And they have, Hofer says. They all have made their payments. They keep their vehicles clean. And beyond that, they have worked out budgets so the bills that got away from them before are being paid.
"It amazes me how well they have taken care of their obligations and concerns," he says. "It amounts to discipline. Maybe no one sat down before and said, `Hey, you have to do this and that.' Probably no one showed an interest at all in them before."
Weekly's van has given her new freedom. Before she was dependent on others - a boyfriend or relatives - to get to work, or to take her children to school, or to run them to doctors' appointments.
"It was so frustrating sometimes," she says. "If it's storming, or snowing, you wonder, `How am I going to get to work? Or how am I going to get the kids to school?'
"A lot of times we walked. I walked them to school. You leave the house at 7 a.m. so they get there on time."
She always tried to make it to work, no matter what the weather or circumstances. A housekeeper before going to work for Goodwill, she could get a ride in from her employers if she couldn't make it herself.
But there were occasions when she needed to pick a child up at day care, to be at a doctor's appointment and to be at work - all at approximately the same time. And that couldn't be done.
"That was hard," Weekly says. "You have to cancel appointments. That's not good, either."
The van has changed that, though she's had to spend some money to fix the brakes, to put in a new starter and to replace some tires.
"But I had money in savings," she says. "That helped."
And that's what the program developers hoped would happen when they created Wheels to Work.
"I think the point is, a single mother who has problems gets a car and knows now that she has transportation," Hofer says. "She can get to work, hopefully earn a decent wage, put some money in savings for emergencies, and maybe take some classes and move up. It's a process of getting them self-sufficient."

A permanent program
Now the Sioux Falls Homeless Coalition is turning Wheels to Work into a permanent program. Minnehaha County has given it $12,000 to purchase cars. This coming year, they hope to assist 10 more households, and not just single women receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
"The people have to be working, and need a vehicle for work," says Karen Hattervig, a lawyer for East River Legal Services who helped start Wheels to Work. "We've already had a single-parent father qualify for this year."

Now the need is vehicles. The money from the county will help, but to succeed, the program is going to need donations of cars, trucks or vans from individuals or businesses.
Such donations are tax-deductible, Hofer says.
"If the program is going to work down the road, we need the cars," he says. "We have to get out in the community and do some marketing, some educating. Because the need is there. It's just a question of vehicles."
The vehicles can make a difference in a person's life. Weekly, who has finished her contract with the homeless coalition and owns the van outright now, knows that to be so.
"If I didn't have the van, I don't know what I'd do," she says. "It would be rough. I'm sure we'd do a lot of walking, but I don't even want to think about that."

Want to help?
Anyone willing to donate a vehicle to the Wheels to Work program is asked to call Leroy Hofer at Consumer Credit Counseling Service, 357-0114. Donations are tax deductible.
Argus Leader columnist Steve Young writes about interesting people and events shaping our community. Ideas are welcome. Phone 331-2306 or write: Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD, 57117-503 4.
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