Anthony Conway partners with Jefferson City nonprofits to bring his used-car programs to the area.
Conway, who runs the Cars4-donated car program Columbia, met with the public at the United Way’s offices in central Missouri late Thursday morning. He delivered a 2010 Pontiac G6 to a Rape and Abuse Crisis Service customer and shared his organization’s details with nonprofits in the area.
Like its Columbia counterpart, his latest effort, Cars 4 Jefferson City, is intended to serve low-income, transportation-challenged residents and families in Cole County. Through nonprofit partners, the program provides access to donated vehicles to help solve personal transportation issues. You may also repair the cars of clients of nonprofit organizations.
The organization can replace a Jefferson City-based nonprofit service once it is offered. For most of the past decade, the Working Wheels for Working Family Company has provided gently used vehicles to families in Cole County for free.
Working Wheels got its start — taking donated cars and refurbishing them — in 2013. The Car Guys, a repair shop at 406 Monroe Street, made repairs to the vehicles, and customers would pay what they could afford.
But in 2020, after the untimely death of Laurie Smith, the director of the nonprofit, Working Wells disappeared from view. State records show that the organization was formally dissolved in July 2021, leaving a potential need in Jefferson City.
Ann Bucks, president of the United Way of Central Missouri, said Thursday that her organization was surprised to learn that Working Wheels had closed its doors. It has been a reliable and helpful non-profit organization for which the United Way has awarded grants (assisted operations) over the years.
Bucks said transportation has been a huge need in Jefferson City for years, and there is still a huge need.
United Way on Thursday was trying to help Conway build relationships with several of its partner agencies, or connect with Jefferson City’s resources.
“Transfer is a defining barrier[to steady employment],” Conway told more than a dozen listeners. “People work too hard just to get a job, and then they get fired because they can’t get to work.”
Conway added that mass transit cannot meet the personal needs of every resident.
For a society to be efficient in transportation, it must use all types of transportation. The bus system works very well for some, but not for everyone.
Conway said Cars4 Columbia has so far donated 36 cars to Colombians. But what has intrigued Conway is the number of people who need transportation who have a car but can’t afford to fix it. He said his organization has repaired more than 400 cars.
Conway owns a car dealership, and he has mechanics working for him. One of them, Josh Remus, sometimes goes to customers’ homes to fix their cars. He reminded the listeners that all efforts are being made through a non-profit organization.
“Our focus is on the car donation program because the only real solution for someone with a transportation problem is to (own) their own car,” he said. “Not just a vehicle, but a reliable vehicle.”
Once the organization realized that it could help more people by fixing their cars, it started doing so as well.
Cars 4 said Jefferson City could give someone their feet. Conway said car donation does not represent a “forever” solution to an individual’s transportation issues. What donated cars do is buy some time for the driver to get a better car.
The program is modeled after Good News Garage – a program that began in Vermont. In about 25 years, the nonprofit Good News Garage has provided more than 5,500 families across Vermont with donated vehicles, according to its website, https://goodnewsgarage.org.
Conway said customers are responsible for paying for the vehicles or the costs to repair them. He said a number of nonprofits are helping with repair costs.
On Wednesday, employees of the nonprofit Cars4 Columbia contacted a customer whose car had a list of 20 necessary repairs. He said the customer had already paid more than $2,300 to fix the car.
The car was not worth $2,300, it was like the house known as the “money pit”. He said a lot of customers spend thousands of dollars on cars but end up without transportation afterwards.
Conway said many people become financially trapped because a car won’t meet their transportation needs. So, Conway is considering taking her to a different car at a discount, he said. It is another way to correct situations.
“Our job is to sit down with a[non-profit]organization and find a solution,” Conway said. “We may not know what that solution will be, but we will find it.”
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