This year United Way of West Central Minnesota is supporting 40 agency programs through the generosity of our donors. One of the great programs is Heartland Community Action’s “Helping People Get There”. Jonathan Marchand is the program director and he tells us one success story, one that we featured in our 2014 campaign video.
The benefit of “Helping People Get There” is clearly seen in the personal stories of those who have received a car from Heartland. “Crystal” was a single mother who was struggling to meet the basic needs of herself and her child. She worked for a local business as a cook and delivery driver, but when she was in an accident that totaled her vehicle, she found herself without the means to sustain herself and her child. She was no longer able to bring her child to day care, to drive herself to and from work, or to do so many of the seemingly small or inconsequential things that we tend to take for granted, such as making a quick run to the store when we run out of milk. Without a car, she lost her job. Without her job, she lost her apartment. Without her apartment, she was facing homelessness with her child. Without family to support her, Crystal sank into depression and hopelessness, unsure of what to do when the day came when she would have to leave her home.
Fortunately she was able to secure emergency housing through her church. While by no means spacious or permanent, it was a safety net for her. She was referred to Heartland’s Parent Support and Outreach Program (PSOP), and from there to the Workforce Center. Her concurrent work with the PSOP program and her Employment Specialist eventually resulted in a referral to Helping People Get There. She had a confirmed job start, and transitional housing support to move into permanent housing once her employment began, but the missing piece was still the car. Crystal began to feel hopeless again.
While she was able to begin work, she still was at the mercy of the schedule of the volunteer drivers. This meant that she may be early to work one day, late the next, and similarly inconsistent with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups for her son. It did, however, allow her to save up enough money to secure insurance for a vehicle donated to the Transportation Program. This car, although a 1995 model, had less than 90,000 miles and had been exceptionally cared for by the family who donated it. When Crystal came to our office to complete the documentation and title transfer paperwork, she cried with joy. Her car was there, waiting for her, complete with a car-seat for her son and a full tank of gas. She could scarcely believe it. Her 2 year old son “Noah” was enthusiastically demonstrating how he had mastered the use of the ice scraper. Crystal buckled Noah into his car seat, her graciousness was absolutely so genuine and heartfelt. She drove away that morning to drop her son off at day care, and then to drive to work; in her own car.