Changing Gears: How reliable, affordable cars help people work their way out of poverty
Ann Boland was just getting her life back on track with a promising job in a brand new industry, but there was one big thing holding her back. She didn’t have a car. “There was a period of time that I had to take a bus from Madisonville to Columbia Tusculum, which is four or five miles at most,” she said. “It took over an hour and a transfer to travel four miles.” Fortunately she found Changing Gears, a nonprofit that provides affordable, reliable vehicles for people who are working their way out of poverty. Changing Gears likens itself to Habitat for Humanity, but with cars. The organization takes in donated cars, restores them and then sells them at a reduced cost to people working their way out of poverty. The nonprofit required Boland to take classes to learn how to budget for the expenses of owning a car and to volunteer in the organization’s West End garage. She learned how to change her car’s oil and replace the headlights, along with other basic repairs. “It’s changed my life in many ways,” said Boland, who’s 65. “It’s given me a much brighter future.” Changing Gears has done that for 88 people since it launched in 2013, said Joel Bokelman, the organization’s president and founder. But as wonderful as that is, Bokelman said he knows there are thousands more low-income people in Greater Cincinnati who could work themselves out of poverty far more easily if they had affordable, reliable vehicles.