Impoverished Receive Free Rides at Rides for Hope


Photo by Oliur on Unsplash

While mentoring a 24-year-old man who worked at a fast-food restaurant, Gary Wilkerson Jr was shocked to learn that he was a trained machinist.

“He was having to work a fast-food restaurant job because he didn’t have a car to get to a machinist shop and that’s what his trade was,” said Wilkerson Jr, founder of Rides For Hope.

After asking around and posting on Facebook, an acquaintance answered the call seeking assistance.

“Within two days somebody donated an old car they were just about to trade in,” Wilkerson told Dallas Express.  “That’s how Rides For Hope got started.”

That was back in 2013. Since then, Rides For Hope has given away about 93 vehicles.

“If we had the number of cars coming in that we have requests to fill, we would need a couple of hundred cars a year,” Wilkerson said in an interview. “In reality, we only give away between 12 and 24 cars a year but we have the demand for two hundred or so.”

In addition to gifting a bike, car, truck or van, Rides For Hope provides daily or monthly bus passes, gas cards, assistance with car payments or automotive repair bills to single parents, military veterans and families in need.

“A car allows people to improve their lives much quicker and sometimes the only way to improve their lives is to improve employment,” Wilkerson said. “In order to improve employment in our city, you need reliable transportation. We’ve been serving people that suffer from extreme poverty for almost 11 years now and that’s one key area that we see over and over again is that having no transportation is a hindrance to them improving their current situation.”

The challenge that Wilkerson said he faces is getting the word out to car owners that donating a vehicle is more beneficial financially than trading it in because he can’t afford to advertise or to hire a public relations firm.

“You get a tax credit that allows you to take full fair market value of the vehicle where a dealer is only going to give you probably half of that because they want to make a profit and sell it at fair market value,” he said. “So, when you donate to us, because we are giving it to a disadvantaged family, the IRS allows the the donor to take fair full market value for their vehicle on their federal tax return. So, they might get 2,500 or $3,000 for a trade-in where they’ll end up getting $5,500 to 6,000 in a tax credit.”

People in need of an automobile are vetted and referred to Rides For Hope through the following six organizations: My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, Day Resource Center, Recovery Resource Council, NewDay Services For Children & Families, Love Acts, and Hearts Full of Love.

“A lot of times the cars we get need repairing,” Wilkerson added. “We will never give a car away that hasn’t gone through an extensive safety inspection. We make sure that they have good tires on them, good batteries, and that they’re in good running condition. We don’t want to gift somebody with a car that is going to be a financial burden because it’s breaking down every week.”

To donate a car or cash, visit the Rides For Hope website.

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