With car prices soaring by the day, the Good News Garage has come to the aid of many families looking to purchase vehicles but can’t raise the money. Car prices have increased by $15,000 over the last decade, making it challenging for low-income families to purchase new cars. With over two decades of existence, the non-profit organization has donated cars to more than 55,000 Burlington residents.
The charity works with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, a state agency tasked with providing vocational services to residents with mental and physical disabilities. If you’re looking to donate a vehicle or receive one from Good News Garage program, here’s more about the organization:
What is Good News Garage?
Good News Garage is an organization that receives donated vehicles from residents, disposes of them, refurbishes, and repairs them for donation to needy people in the community. The organization was established in 1994 after Hal Colston, a Lutheran church member and social activist, came up with the idea of starting a community garage.
A single mom had approached Hal for help after she purchased a car that broke down regularly. The seller had declined to refund the money, leaving her with no means of transportation. In 1995, Hal, Reverend Doug Ward, and Pastor Fredrick decided to set up a garage to help struggling people get affordable and reliable cars.
They worked many hours to raise money for the organization, recruit volunteers, and receive car donations. Eventually, they opened Good News Garage in 1996 with the help of Lutheran Social Services, Wheat Ridge Ministries, and Chittenden County Transportation Authority which donated space to set up the garage and a small office.
The Good News Garage program has since helped many people in Burlington, New Hampshire, and Manchester while empowering clients to become socially and financially stable. The program has received special recognition from notable organizations, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the Best non-profit agency and the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for exercising entrepreneurship in social service programming.
The organization keeps busy processing vehicle donations and working with families to find suitable vehicle recipients. It also works with local garages to refurbish the vehicles awarded and perform repairs such as auto ac service, auto glass repair, brake repair, and wrecker services.
Good News Garage Programs
The organization aims to help struggling families and individuals get cars. Towards this end, it has launched other programs to reach out to different categories of individuals who can benefit from the Good News Garage Program. They include:
Ready to Go Program-Van Rides for Vermonters at the Brink of Losing Jobs
Besides donating vehicles, the program offers van rides to and from work and childcare facilities to Vermont residents who are almost losing jobs due to lack of transportation. The charity achieves this through its Ready to Go program launched in 2000 in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Initially, the program provided rides to former Transitional Support Service Stipends recipients through the Department of Transitional Assistance and Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children. However, the program expanded its operations to include Vermont and surrounding areas to residents who almost lost their jobs due to lack of transportation.
Today, the program schedules more than 30,000 rides yearly, usually from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. This means families and individuals can go to work, daycare centers, home, and schools at no cost. The van takes the kids to school, picks the mum or dad up to work, or makes appointments with case workers making them more productive.
Wheels to Work program: Good News Garage Helps People with Disabilities in New Hampshire
In New Hampshire and Vermont, the organization awards cars to people through the Wheels to Work program. The program is specially designed to help people with disabilities and works together with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to help them drive to work.
However, only people enrolled in the state Department of Children and Families’ Reach Up program and referred by an MRC counselor are eligible. The applicants must also provide a written Individual Plan for Employment. They send applications to the Reach Up program, which forwards them to Good News Garage for consideration.
JumpStart Vehicle Program
The program also launched another program to help working people who don’t qualify for state-funded programs (making less than 250% of the federal poverty level) access cars at heavily subsidized prices.
Beneficiaries of this program can buy a vehicle worth $6,000 for as low as $2,000. Like the Good News Garage program, it serves Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire residents. People eligible for the JumpStart Vehicle program are required to submit a vehicle application and:
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Provide a sponsor to verify the applicant’s need for a car
- Make less than 250% of the federal poverty level
- Be working for at least 20 hours a week
Affiliated JumpStart Repair Program
The GNG program also has an affiliated JumpStart Repair Program designed to offer various car repairs like auto dent repairs, brake repairs, and more to working people. The program, available to Vermont residents only, offers grants worth $500 for car repairs. Like other Good News Garage programs, eligible candidates can apply directly to the affiliated JumpStart Repair program.
Which Cars are Eligible for Donation?
The Good News Garage program doesn’t just accept any car for donation. It follows strict eligibility criteria before donating the vehicles to recipients. Donated cars are picked up via the program’s 24 hour tow truck and delivered to the garage in Burlington, where they’re examined by one of the agency’s three full-time technicians.
The organization looks at every car, and evaluates it for car scrapping service. If the vehicles are found to be beyond repair, e.g., because of rust, the Good News Garage sells them at an auction for parts. Vehicle donations involving premium brands, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, are culled because they’re expensive to maintain and repair for people with struggling incomes. The charity sells such vehicles, too.
Besides getting a ‘new’ car, recipients enjoy a tax deduction equal to the car’s fair market value. As for car repairs, the Good News Garage liaises with local automotive businesses to provide various repair services, including auto dent repairs, auto ac service, auto glass repair, and more.
The organization’s primary goal is to look for cars that can last long, even after car repairs. Good News Garage is keen to ensure the car can last two or three years while the recipient gets back on their feet. And Wheels to Work creates a bridge between people with disabilities and Good News Garage. The organization spends close to $2,000 on each vehicle to ensure it’s safe and reliable for use.
Good News Garage Success Stories
The Good News Garage program has helped many families. Here are notable success stories:
Katlyn Farland Receives a New Subaru Outback
For Katlyn Farland and her husband, getting around their neighborhood and running errands was challenging because they didn’t have a vehicle. Their home on South Stream Road is a three-mile walk from the nearest bus stop. This meant Katlyn and her husband relied on friends and relatives to run errands and get Gerry Farland to his job at the Bennington Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Since buying a car just wasn’t in their budget, the Good News Garage stepped in. The organization awarded the Farlands with a 2006 Outback Station wagon (blue), a dream come true for them. Albeit having a mileage of 175,000 miles, all the car needed was a thorough auto repair service to make it reliable for use.
The vehicle was taken for local auto detailing because the exhaust system, filters, and fluids needed to be changed. The crew also installed new snow tires and performed a safety inspection before handing them over to the new owner.
Katlyn loved that it had lots of legroom, ample space to store a baby’s stroller, and it drives smoothly. It also had handy safety equipment and a 4.5-star crashworthiness rating which was beneficial to their eight-month-old baby.
The car came with a 12-month warranty. The Good News Garage program is keen to ensure you have a great experience with the vehicle. Before handing the car to the recipient, a car coach is assigned to the family to explain basic information about car maintenance and its cost.
In Farland’s case, the car coach explained basic information about the car, the maintenance required, and the annual cost. The Farlands also had to set up a savings account to cater to the car’s expenses. The Reach Up program paid for the title and registration fees, while the Farlands family paid for taxes.
Tiffaney Allen Receives a Subaru Impreza
Tiffaney is another person who has benefited from the program. Working as a personal assistant, Allen relied on her vehicle to go to work which was around different states. Since she raised three children alone, there wasn’t much money to purchase a new vehicle.
After losing her job, she received a call from Vermont’s Reach Up Program that she had been selected to get a vehicle. Allen received a Subaru Impreza, which helped her get the job back and drive the kids to school, sports, and other places.
Allen is a personal care assistant in the Northeast Kingdom and relies on her car for work as she drives all over the state.
Tarah Dunn Receives a 2013 Ford Fiesta
The Good News Garage program also came to the aid of Tarah Dunn, a Florence resident. She received a 2013 Ford Fiesta (blue), which helped her scout for employment away from home.
Tarah learned about the program while working as a part-time tutor and looking for employment opportunities. With a new vehicle, she could do a few more things, including running errands, traveling out of state, and visiting the library.
How Have Good News Garage Programs Helped Residents?
The program has had a significant impact on families. As of 2018, the Good News Garage program had helped more than 5,000 families, and 95% still owned the donated car a year later. Also, 70% of the families no longer relied on public assistance, and 72% had realized increased incomes.
Also, a state survey found that 61% of the people who had received a vehicle from the Good News Garage program became less reliant on assistance. That’s because cars provide mobility, allowing people to look for more rewarding opportunities.
Without a car, one is literally stuck, preventing you from finding a job, and if you don’t have work, you can’t buy a car. This vicious cycle limits many households from progressing.
Ellyn Gaudet Receives a 2002 Toyota Corolla
Ellyn Gaudet, a single mom, was going through some life issues when she received the car from the Good News Garage program. Being a mom to a special needs child, she needed a vehicle to get around school and home.
Her car had failed inspection, leaving her without transportation. Since she was a participant of the New Hampshire Employment program, she applied for a car donation through a caseworker. Ellyn managed to finish nursing school and find a job at a local hospital, thanks to the vehicle. She then re-donated the car to GNG for donation to another family.
How Can You Contribute to the Good News Garage Program?
There are three ways a resident can contribute to the program:
You can volunteer to provide office assistance in any of the three GNG offices, pick up and deliver donated vehicles, or at staffing events.
Donate a Vehicle
You can donate a vehicle you don’t use or need to the program. The organization accepts trucks, cars, vans, RVs, luxury vehicles, motorcycles, and campers, to mention a few. You can donate new or slightly used car parts, tires, and other materials like flashlights or jumper cables. Alternatively, you can make a monthly or one-time donation.
If you’re running a faith-based organization and want to partner with the GNG program, you can reach out to find out how to do it.