Butler County program helps people in need get back on the road

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Luis Archila took his family of six to Chuck E. Cheese's on the day he bought a 2004 Dodge Caravan.

That chilly February day felt like a new beginning for them in many ways, because it had been a long time since they had been able to pile into one vehicle together.

They also no longer had to rely on a broken down 2000 Saturn. The compact car had been emitting fumes for months, forcing them to keep thewindows down throughout the winter.

“We were desperate, so to get this van is a big deal, a blessing for my family,” Archila, 50, said.

Their new, though extensively used, vehicle was made possible by Jennifer Carr and Ed Holdcroft of the Lighthouse Foundation's Wheels of Work program. They sell cars to low income families in and around Butler County, though exclude Allegheny County, because it already has a low-income car ownership program.

Carr said that they try to set a price for each car they sell from 50 to 60 percent below market value and sell them for between $1,800 and $2,800. Archila bought his 2004 Dodge Caravan for $1,800, which is about $1,200 less than the Kelly Blue Book price.

“Even though it had 240,000 miles, it was serviced, looked brand new and was good for inspection until January 2015,” Archila said.

In turn, Archila donated his 2000 Saturn to Wheels of Work.

“I told them that whatever they could get for it, great,” Archila said.

Carr and Holdcroft, 59, of Pine, rejuvenated Wheels of Work last November, because it needed new leadership. They hope that the program, which has sold eight cars in 2014 and gifted another to a family just prior to Christmas, becomes self-sustainable over time. They accept cars from private donors and businesses and prepare them to be sold.

The car that they gave to Justin Wooley's family was dubbed the “Gift of Independence.” Carr and Holdcroft said the Gift of Independence will be given to a new family or individual every Independence Day.

In order to qualify for Wheels of Work, individuals or families must have income under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline's poverty level. Individuals or a parent must also be working at least 25 hours per week on a consist basis. Potential buyers must provide three months of proof of their income with their application.

Potential buyers must also have a valid Pennsylvania driver's license, be insurable in the state, not have another vehicle and be able to cover potential costs of car ownership.

“Just to help people out that need a break and need a car to get to work and to get kids around is rewarding,” Holdcroft said. “I've been in the car business for 30 years, and I should use my expertise to help others.”

Wheels of Work also stays connected with the people they sell cars to in case repairs are needed. They use individual mechanics and garages, such as Pine Automotive, MSK Automotive and Hessi Automotive, who give them and their customers reduced rates.

“They understand what we're about and give us really good discounts on new parts or used parts to help us,” Carr said.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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