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How to “Drive” Change by Donating Your Car

I still have my first car. It’s a blue Honda with hundreds of thousands of mileage. That car has taken me from Georgia to California and back. It saw me through a spontaneous road trip from Tennessee to Connecticut when I was in college. It has traversed the red rock hills of Sedona, Arizona, and the city streets of Chicago, Illinois. This car has blasted me with air conditioning on the hottest summer days and kept me safe and dry when storms poured rain on my way to work. All in all, my faithful little car has been my transportation across 26 states. Without fail, it has gotten me where I needed to go.

That blue Honda is so reliable that I rarely thought twice about making plans, driving to work, or volunteering to carpool with coworkers.

And then it unexpectedly landed in the auto repair shop.

The repair took three weeks. That meant three weeks without a vehicle. And those three weeks showed me how much I relied on my car. So many of my plans were contingent on being able to drive any time. Having a reliable car meant always having transportation. The flexibility to make plans. Never wondering how I would get to work each day. I could drive to the doctor and get there on time. Family never wondered if I could pick them up at the airport.

Without my car, I was limited.

However, I also learned how many advantages I have. Advantages that many people don’t have. These advantages meant that losing my car for three weeks was an annoyance, not a disaster. Because of where I live, I can walk, ride the bus, or take the train nearly everywhere I want to go. I work from home often, so I didn’t have to worry about losing my income. And because I have friends with cars, I was even able to borrow a vehicle for the day when I needed it.

What if that hadn’t been the case?

What if no car meant three weeks of not making it to work? That could mean losing a job that I worked hard to get and need for income. All of a sudden, my ability to pay rent would be in jeopardy. Going to the doctor, shopping for groceries… all of these things would become much more difficult, time-consuming, and inconvenient. Transportation barriers regularly impact people’s health care access. They increase isolation. And lack of transportation is a major obstacle to employment for millions of Americans.

The Barrier of Transportation

At World Relief Chicagoland, we frequently talk about the barriers that immigrants and refugees face when they arrive in the United States. Those barriers come in all shapes and sizes – they can be anything that keeps families from accomplishing their goals.

Oftentimes, for those whose new homes are in the suburbs, near World Relief’s offices in Aurora and DuPage County, one of the biggest barriers is transportation.

Consider this:

  • Suburban neighborhoods often don’t have access to buses and trains, or routes don’t cover every area.
  • Carpooling is a good option, but only if everyone’s schedule matches up. This doesn’t work very well if you work an unusual shift or have commitments like picking your child up from daycare by a certain time.
  • Uber and Lyft can work in a pinch, but the cost per ride is high and adds up quickly.
  • Because of the current lack of affordable housing, people will take apartments wherever they can – but this might put them out of walking distance from their community and limit their access to carpools.

Two Stories

Right now, World Relief knows a family of six who live with a relative in Aurora. This relative has a car, so they are hoping to find affordable housing near her so that she can take the adults to work and help them run errands. This is their best option because there aren’t any carpool or public transport options nearby, although the father of the family already has his driver’s license. Getting a car would mean the family has more flexibility in housing and the ability to drive to work, pick up groceries, and make it to doctor’s appointments – all on their own, without relying on their relative.

Another family we know is a single mother and her son. This mom is on her own, but determined to work hard to support her son. The first step toward getting a job is access to childcare—and thankfully, World Relief staff connected her with an amazing and affordable place where her son will be safe and cared for throughout the day. However, the daycare is only open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. – and the only carpool in her area is on a schedule that won’t let her pick up her son on time. Having access to a car will open amazing opportunities for this mom to drive to her job, work to support her son, and pick him up at the end of the day.  

For these families, access to a car unlocks an incredible future. Lack of access limits that potential.

The Unmatched Impact of Donating Your Car  

World Relief Chicagoland can count the families who need a car right now. Receiving a car right now would change their lives completely. And each car would have a rippling impact far beyond one individual or family.

If we had six cars right now, we would be able to give them out within two to four weeks. That would provide transportation to as many as twenty-four people who have jobs at up to six different companies.

– World Relief Chicagoland Employment Team staff member

Think of it like this – each car not only serves a person’s entire family, but it begins a new carpool opportunity that provides regular transportation for up to five or six people in the community who work at the same company. One car makes it possible for families to access other community resources, participate in events, visit relatives in other towns, and run errands in a more efficient manner.

How do we connect these families to vehicles?

How did you get your first car? What about your first job?

My blue Honda made it possible for me to drive to internships in college, take my roommate to medical appointments after an injury, move across the country for a new job post-college, and get to work every day once there. It’s not fancy. But it has always gotten me where I needed to go. My family gave me this car as a young adult, and it was a vital part of launching me into my adult life and career as I was just starting out.

Immigrant and refugee families who are rebuilding their lives in the U.S. face all kinds of barriers. But transportation should not be one of them.

Waiting to buy a car will prevent them from accessing the job opportunities and community resources that will create financial stability in the first place. And yet it would be impossible for most families to pay thousands of dollars to buy a car now.

You can jump-start their process to thriving by donating your car to World Relief Chicagoland. When you do, you will remove the barrier of transportation for as many as five or six immigrant or refugee families. And by removing the barrier of transportation, you create career opportunities and a positive economic impact that touches everyone in the community.

Will you be swapping your car for a newer model this season? Do you need a bigger vehicle to accommodate your family’s needs? If so, consider donating your car to World Relief Chicagoland.

The gift of transportation is a tangible way to change lives.

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