Sheila Blaylock sat in the waiting room at Chapel Hill Tire, with an eye out the window to check on her children playing with other kids outside.
“Life hasn’t always been like this for us,” the mother of two said softly. “One situation just snowballs.”
Blaylock’s trouble began after she took nine days off her tech-support job for the birth of her son, Tysiir, now 2. She did not have short-term disability, she said, and had him by cesarian section.
With the lost pay, Blaylock came up $100 short on rent. She got evicted, and though she returned to work the family ended up at the Durham Rescue Mission, where they stayed a little over a year.
Then her car got totaled in an accident, leaving Blaylock without transportation since March.
“I was getting to where I was hopeless,” she said. “It felt like there wasn’t going to any help, and I was scared for my kids.”
La Shawn Boykin has an unusual job title: car flow administrator.
Boykin works for Wheels4Hope, a charity that provides cars at low cost to people who don’t have one, work at least part time and have been referred by one of 32 partner agencies with whom they are working toward independent living.
The organization has offices in Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville. The Raleigh office, which also serves Chapel Hill and Durham, has provided 109 cars to people this year, and the three hubs have provided over 1,100 since the organization began 16 years ago.
Saturday it was Blaylock’s turn.
As the 32-year-old mother from Durham waited for the first glimpse of her new vehicle – a 2004 Chrysler Town & Country van – Cynthia Harris of Housing for New Hope explained how not having a car can start a downward spiral.
Blaylock had just paid off her 2001 Subaru Legacy and was working in Morrisville when she got rear-ended. She ended up having to take three buses to get to work, a 45-minute car trip that took two hours by bus.
“I have clients spend three to four hours a day taking the bus to work,” said Harris, the rehousing coordinator. “Many have to change buses several times before they ever get to their destination.”
Housing for New Hope provides transitional housing and other services to about 150 to 200 people each year. Harris connected Blaylock with Wheels4Hope, and her agency provided the deposit and six months rent assistance to move the family into their new apartment.
‘A hand up’
Housing for New Hope has helped obtain Wheels4Hope cars for about 15 clients. The recipients pay $500 for the vehicles, which are worth $2,000 to $4,500, and $108 for Division of Motor Vehicles fees.
“We look at this as a hand up rather than a hand out,” Boykin said, explaining why they don’t give the cars for free. “It’s way for (the clients) not to have a car payment, and they can say they paid for something they own.”
Blaylock started crying Saturday afternoon as soon as the van pulled around the side of Chapel Hill Tire at University Place.
The store, which has donated over 500 hours of labor to Wheels4Hope, performed the service on the Chrysler van at no cost.
Through tears, Blaylock told owner Marc Pons, his workers and others gathered for the “car blessing” how much the car meant.
“It’s more than just having a car (again),” she said in an interview. “It makes me feel like a good mom, being there for my kids.
“It’s been a bit of struggle,” she explained. “As little things as doing the laundry. Some times if I don’t have money for a cab, I have to take it on the bus with the kids. ... My daughter asks me all the time when are we going to be able to (places).”
Blaylock said it has not been easy asking for help these past few years.
“It’s really touching to know the community is there for you,” she said, dabbing her eyes. “I’m so grateful.
“To have a car I don’t have to worry about ... I’m so thankful.”
Schultz: 919-829-8950; @chapelhillnews1
How to donate
If your donated car is placed as a program car, you can claim the full fair market value of the vehicle as a tax deduction. If not, where possible, Wheels4Hope will repair your car and sell it on its retail lot (generating the best value for your tax deduction). For all cars sold, 100 percent of the proceeds go to support the agency’s mission. To learn more call 919-832-1941 or go to http://wheels4hope.org/