Calling All Cars
I John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Ten years ago, I had an encounter with a young woman that impacted me greatly. She was unmarried with a young child and another on the way.
One night, she called me in tears to ask for help. While she received both SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (additional food stamps for kids under 5 and pregnant or breastfeeding moms) she had run out of funds to buy formula and diapers for her son.I could hear him wailing in the background.
My own finances were on life support. I was divorced with 2 kids , grossly under paid, and responsible for my mortgage and all the bills with no child or spousal support. But I couldn’t let that child go hungry or live in a soiled diaper, so I went out and charged the items as well as some food for her. When I delivered everything, I asked how much she received in help each month. It sounded like a reasonable amount, so I asked what had happened that month to cause the shortfall.
She explained it was really an every month occurrence. Without a car, she had two choices when it came to grocery shopping. Take a bus to a local shopping center or walk to the corner deli.
To take the bus, she transported her son in a carrier. She needed change for the ride which could take hours round trip and had to hope she could find a seat. Once she finished her shopping, she had only one hand to hold onto a bag or two of groceries because the other hand was needed for the carrier.
If she walked to the corner deli, she could put the baby in a stroller, walk half a block, do her shopping and put the bags under the buggy. It was far quicker and easier, but the downside was the cost.
Items that might be a dollar or two in the grocery store cost 2-3 times as much in the deli. And they didn’t carry some items at all. Of course saving a little money with coupons wasn’t on her radar because the deli wouldn’t take them. All of this added up to funds being wasted and a crisis by the end of each month.
I told her the next time she got her allotment for food, she needed to call me for a ride instead waiting until she was desperate and in need of money. Money I really didn’t have to give. I wasn’t angry, just frustrated she hadn’t called before it was a crisis. I was also annoyed with myself. While it was her responsibility, I knew she had no transportation and it had never occurred to me to proactively offer a ride when I was heading to the store.
Whether it’s to go to work, run to the school to pick up a sick child, get to a doctor’s visit, or just pick up some groceries, when we have a car, we jump in, turn the key, and head out. We never think about how difficult day to day life is without a vehicle.
I’ve heard people say “why don’t they just call for an Uber?” or “they can take a bus.” But depending where you live, taking a bus can be an all-day affair. If you don’t live in an urban area where buses run frequently, or have many stops, you might be hard-pressed to find places to be picked up and your destination may not be a direct route. In the latter case, taking multiple buses or waiting for long stretches of time in between rides is not uncommon.
In emergency situations, when you need transportation quickly, an Uber can be a fall back, but it’s an expensive option when it’s your sole means of getting around.
I’m so pleased to be associated with a ministry that helps single moms bridge that transportation gap. For 24 years, volunteers have worked on cars donated to the church, gotten them road-ready, then donated them back out free of charge.
Here’s the problem though. We can only help as many people as we receive decent, running cars. Cars that are 15 years old or less. Cars that have around 150,000 miles or less on them. Those are guidelines, but honestly, any older or any more mileage, and they become a money pit. Money single moms don’t have.
In the 5 years I’ve headed up He Cares We Care, I’ve received calls from all over the United States – from Florida to Colorado and many places in between. We finally listed the 14 towns we serve in New Jersey to try to stem that tide. And I still get calls from all over New Jersey.
I wish we could help every person who calls. I’ve heard some stories that would make your heart break in two and cause tears to flow, and I can’t help them.
But you can.
- Instead of trading in your car, donate it. If you do that through a program like ours, you can get tax credit. But make sure it’s a program where the cars go back out to those in need and not sold to support the organization’s programs. There aren’t too many out there that donate cars to the public.
- Identify a family in your sphere of influence without transportation and give them your car. You won’t get the tax credit, but you will be changing lives.
- Start a Cars ministry at your own church. There are lots of things to take into consideration, such as insurance, volunteers to work on the cars, a space in which to do it and more, but if we’ve been doing it for 24 years, it can be done!
- Offer a ride to someone who doesn’t have a vehicle. The immense stress of getting from one place to another can be alleviated temporarily if you pick up where I dropped the ball all those years ago.
To learn more about donating your vehicle to He Cares We Care, call 609-799-9000 ext. 30, or visit princetonalliance.org/cars.
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