Car charity gives wheels – and hope

kjahner@newsobserver.comJuly 26, 2012 

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Stacy Hyde (right) takes a photograph of herself with her new car, a 1997 Ford Taurus along with her friend Laura D'Arcangelo during the 12th anniversary celebration of the Wheels For Hope program on Thursday July 25, 2012 in Raleigh, N.C. Hyde was one of 12 of recipients of cars which are donated and fixed up by volunteers before they are sold to those in need for $500. If the recipients take care of the car for one year, they are given the title to the car.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— Stacy Hyde glowed as she looked at her new car. The shiny red 1997 Ford Taurus would normally cost several thousand dollars, but it was hers for $500.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Hyde, a former domestic violence victim who works at Harris Teeter to support her 5-year-old daughter.

A total of 12 cars sat in the Wheels 4 Hope lot on South Saunders Street Thursday evening to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the charity that gives people rebuilding their lives something few charities offer: transportation.

The 12 new car owners would later, after a prayer, start their cars all at once, signifying another step on – or simply a new vessel for – the road back from a variety of unfortunate circumstances.

“If you don’t have a car you’re doomed,” said Chris Simes, who founded Wheels 4 Hope with Duke Law professor John Weistart.

Simes realized that many charities and programs existed to help people with employment, housing and a variety of other needs to get them on their feet. But the engineer saw a glaring need, cars.

After chatting with Weistart about his thought, he went home and wrote 12 pages of ideas. They are now the basis for a charity that has given affordable cars to 400 people in the Raleigh area, touching the lives of roughly 1,150 recipients and immediate family members.

“Programs like these can change people’s lives,” said James Adam Ivy Jr., 41.

Ivy said he made poor life choices and served jail time for misdemeanor assault on a female. But he said he turned a corner with the help of Step Up Ministry, a faith-based service organization that helps children and adults by focusing on life and job skills training.

Now Ivy will drive a refurbished 1998 Buick Century rather than hitching a ride to his job at Daily Planet Café. He also expects to have his barber’s license in a few months.

“This is just the beginning for us,” he said, standing with his girlfriend who joined Step Up a few months before him in December.

An organization recommending someone who they feel is on the right track is key for Wheels 4 Hope. Organizers stress this is not a handout. Aside from the $500 cost of the car, the title isn’t transferred to the new owner until it’s been maintained for one year. Simes says he can’t think of a title that hasn’t been handed over after that period.

The five-person Raleigh chapter relies on donations from residents. Half the donated cars can’t be refurbished, but are sold to help fund the operation. The rest are fixed up by various car shops that volunteer labor while Wheels 4 Hope covers cost of parts. About $700 in repair costs – not including labor – are put into each car.

Bobby Dunn owns Triangle Car Care and is among the shop owners working with the charity. He is glad to contribute his expertise.

“It was hard to find something where you knew you were helping people and could see results,” Dunn said.

“My vision is that this could be a national organization,” said Mike DeSorbo, vice president of Carquest, a corporate sponsor. “It could be the Habitat for Humanity of automobiles.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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