Round, Round, I Get around. (West Virginia)

By Bellinger, Larry | Sojourners Magazine, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Round, Round, I Get around. (West Virginia)


Bellinger, Larry, Sojourners Magazine


`Every once in a while, a truly brilliant idea comes along: the wheel, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Cannoli ... you get the idea." So say Tom and Ray of NPR's "Car Talk" radio program about the Good News Garages in Vermont and Massachusetts. Following the example of the folks in New England, people in Charleston, West Virginia, have established their own Good News Mountaineer Garage.

The agenda is simple. They fix cars and give them away. As Tom and Ray joke: "Not a good business plan!" Unless one is in the business of helping move folks from welfare to work.

"People want to help others--I believe it is a part of our basic nature," said the program's executive director, Barbara Bayes, who grew up in an impoverished area of eastern Kentucky, "and this program addresses the most difficult barrier for poor people in rural areas" in their efforts to break their cycle of poverty.

"In West Virginia, one out of four low-income people listed lack of transportation as the main problem in maintaining employment or getting to job training," said Bayes, citing the West Virginia Research Task Force on Welfare Reform. It was to deal with that problem that the Good News Mountaineer Garage was developed by the West Virginia Council of Churches, the state Department of Health and Human Resources, the Bureau of Family and Children, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The garage, which was founded in 1999, serves Kanawha and Lincoln counties. Lincoln county has no public transportation. Kanawha, which includes the state capital of Charleston, has a limited amount.

People living along the public transportation routes are less likely to receive a ear from the program, because the group's leaders don't want to discourage the use of public transportation.

However, as outreach coordinator Arla Ralston explained, sometimes even having access to public transportation is no panacea to problems of mobility. Latanya Davis, for example, had to take eight buses--riding three to four hours--in order to take her 20-month-old child to daycare and get to her job and back each day. Davis received a car from the Mountaineer Garage. "I am truly blessed!" said Davis. "From what I've been through to where I am now is such a huge difference! …

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