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Local Families Receive Vehicles from ‘Wheels to Work’ Program

Published: 10/14/2016

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Colleen Pillus

Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro joined the County Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) and Dutchess County BOCES today to present five local families with pre-owned vehicles as part of the Community Solutions to Transportation (CST) “Wheels to Work” program.

Started in 2001, the “Wheels to Work” program is designed to help low-income residents get and keep a job, providing them reliable transportation to and from work. Qualified participants must come from a family that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or whose family income is less than 200 percent of the poverty level.

“More than just a means of transportation, each of these cars represents the chance to begin better lives for the recipients and their families,” County Executive Molinaro said. “Not only will these cars transport our recipients to better jobs, they’ll improve their lives in countless ways – from taking them to the supermarket and doctor appointments, to transporting their children to school activities and functions.”

County Executive Molinaro with Wheels to Work recipients

DCFS’s  approach to help transition residents to work is a multi-faceted one that includes work skills training, daycare for eligible families, and the Community Solutions for Transportation program provided under contract by Dutchess County BOCES.  “Wheels to Work” provides vehicles from local used car dealers to eligible individuals and provides participants training – such as car care and defensive driving – as well as assistance in obtaining a learner’s permit or driver’s license.  The CST program also offers driver experience training, car maintenance instruction, and auto repairs.

These vehicles will help families obtain and retain employment, acquire jobs with more hours or higher pay, gain access to higher education to increases the recipients’ wage potential, or take their children to and from school.

The families selected to receive the vehicles were chosen based on specific program guidelines, including their work-related need for transportation. In addition, they have all displayed the perseverance and commitment necessary to continually move forward toward financial independence. For every family that receives a car and avoids temporary assistance, Dutchess County saves $1,614 a month. Within a year, that savings equals the cost of a new car.

“We are not simply handing these recipients cars today; each has earned this vehicle, having dedicated themselves to improving their families’ lives and fulfilled the training necessary to make those improvements reality,” said DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka. “Given the lessons today’s recipients have learned, we’re confident these Dutchess County residents now possess the skills to be self-sufficient and contribute to our community.”

Dutchess County Community Solutions for Transportation has benefited more than 3,000 families since 2001, providing 840 cars – along with registration and car insurance deposits – to participating families.

Nasarima Foster participated in the “Wheels to Work” program and received a car in 2010. The vehicle helped her obtain employment at Poughkeepsie High School, where she now works as a teacher.

“I didn’t think I would get selected. I didn’t think it would be me, but I needed it to be me. I needed someone to believe that I was going to do great things with the vehicle given to me. I wanted someone to believe my mind was fortified and resolute in using the car for success,” said Ms. Foster, who addressed today’s recipients. “Receiving the car enabled me to pursue a better-paying job that was 40 minutes away from home. It enabled me to do the normal, day-to-day errands and activities, such as dropping my daughter to pre-school, food shopping and the like.”

Among today's recipients is a single mother of three children who travels from Poughkeepsie to the Walmart in Fishkill to work various shifts. The vehicle she received today will now make her eligible to work a wider variety of shifts. With her own transportation, not only will she be able to get to work on time; but she will have more parenting time with her children, as well as the ability to go grocery shopping, get the children to school or doctor appointments and many of the other responsibilities of a single parent.

Through the Community Solutions for Transportation program, 292 Dutchess County residents have received their New York State learner’s permit; 977 people participated in driving experience classes; 463 individuals completed the five-hour, pre-licensing class; 441 passed their state road test and received a driver’s license; and 735 vehicle repairs were approved on behalf of program participants since 2001.

“For more than a decade, thousands of local families have benefited from the ‘Wheels to Work’ program, and we’re happy to partner with Dutchess County’s Department of Community & Family Services to make the ‘Wheels to Work’ program a success,” said Dr. Sherre Wesley, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services at Dutchess BOCES. “The number of success stories continues to grow, and that is a tribute to the hard work of our neighbors who have chosen to take part in the program. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Dutchess County to ensure ‘Wheels to Work’ remains successful.”