Saunders: On a drive to help those in need get cars

bsaunders@newsobserver.comOctober 24, 2012 

Every time James Ivy sits behind the wheel, he feels taller.

Naw, he’s not driving one of those elevated monster trucks that allow you to look down on other motorists while blocking everybody else’s vision. He’s driving a 1998 Buick Century he bought from the Wheels 4 Hope program in Raleigh.

That organization tries to help everyone who gets a car from it stand taller in his or her own eyes. For only $588. Including taxes and title.

“Having dependable transportation, you have confidence in your car and yourself,” Ivy, 41, told me Wednesday. “You can take trips with your family and bond with them, and you can put into action your desire to help others.”

Until he hooked up with Wheels 4 Hope, a faith-based nonprofit that sells cars to people who need them and who have been referred by other social agencies, Ivy lacked dependable transportation.

Wheels 4 Hope was started about 12 years ago at West Raleigh Presbyterian Church and has provided more than 500 cars to families, Executive Director John Bush said. The cars. Bush, said, “help people reclaim a foothold in life.”

How come y’all don’t just give the cars to people who need them? I asked Jim Bailey, a Wheels 4 Hope board member.

He said Wheels 4 Hope sells the cars so that the people who get them “will have a little skin in the game. We want them to know we’re giving them a hand up, not a handout. We feel they’ll have a greater appreciation for budgeting if it’s something they have to work and save for.”

Calling and thanking

Ivy definitely appreciates what the car has done for him, and he frequently lets Wheels 4 Hope know.

“Every chance I get, I’m calling and thanking them,” he said when I talked to him between customers while he worked at the Daily Planet Cafe.

The car was a blessing to Ivy, and he has become a blessing to others. “If anybody needs a ride, I can help them,” he said.

He carries neighbors to appointments and volunteers for, among other things, a back-to-school drive to provide supplies for children.

That tan Buick, Bailey said, “has turned his heart into the heart of a servant.”

Bailey also told of a wheel-less single mother who had a three-hour commute both to and from work. “She had to transfer and catch different buses,” he said. “ ‘Inconvenient’ is not a strong enough word.”

After she bought a car from Wheels, Bailey said, her commute time was cut to 20 minutes each way.

31 cars in December

Wow. Bush said the program’s slogan is “Recycling cars, changing lives.” The group is fixing to try to recycle a lot more and change a lot more. In December, Bailey said, “We’re going to see if we can bless 31 families with 31 cars in 31 days.”

Typically, the group gets in about 30 cars a month and sells about half of them.

Garage owners, mechanics and auto dealers have been very helpful, Bush said, lending their expertise to fix up cars – Wheels 4 Hope buys the needed parts – or, in the case of dealers, donating trade-ins that they don’t want on their lots.

Most cars they get, though, come from you. If you’ve got a car you don’t want or a skill that could help, contact Wheels 4 Hope at 919-832-1941 or You could be helping someone like Ivy, who calls his vehicle “a little more than a car. It’s a symbol of where I’m trying to go.”

If you see him going down the street, it’s a good bet he’s going to help somebody. or 919-836-2811

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