From The Frederick News-Pilot
Aug 2, 2015
Cynthia Brotemarkle had to make two bus connections and walk some ways to get to her job at Goodwill on Buckeystown Pike.
Only one bus runs the rural route between Frederick and Walkersville, so some evenings, she wouldn’t get home until 7 or 8 p.m., she said.
“I was taking the bus, cabs and catching rides to work,” Brotemarkle said. “I couldn’t get here ‘til later on Saturdays because the bus ran later, and didn’t run late during the evenings.”
In late June, however, Brotemarkle was presented with a unique opportunity through a newly formed partnership between Goodwill and Second Chances Garage, a nonprofit organization on North Market Street in Frederick. With a little help in the form of a loan from Woodsboro Bank, Brotemarkle is now the proud owner of a 2000 red Subaru Forester.
“I came to Frederick for an alcohol recovery program and now I can make my meetings and give rides to people to the meetings,” she said. “It’s nice to wake up in the morning knowing that there’s a car out there I can jump in and just go.”
Brotemarkle is just one of many who’ve struggled to find adequate transportation to work in Frederick County. Five percent of households in Frederick County did not have access to a car in 2013. That’s nearly 4,300 households, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
She was the first of two Goodwill employees to receive a discounted car from the garage through the partnership, said Wayne Hatcher, Goodwill’s chief operating officer.
“We think that transportation is the key to keeping employment,” Hatcher said. “They have a higher earning potential, do more for the company that they work for and are more self-sufficient with adequate transportation.”
A recent Harvard University study found commuting time to be the single most important factor in the odds of upward socioeconomic mobility, with longer commutes worsening the chances of low-income families escaping poverty.
Second Chances Garage took up the cause of providing cars to low-income families in April 2010, when owner Rick Trawick saw low-priced vehicles disappearing from car lots.
“I thought about it for a long time for several years, and then in 2008 and 2009, when the Cash for Clunkers program came out, it really changed the way the used car market worked,” said Trawick, of Frederick. “Where as a low-income person would be able to buy a car for a couple hundred dollars and drive it for around six months — well, those hundred-dollar vehicles disappeared over night.”
Last year, the nonprofit received about 75 donated cars, but this year, they are aiming to get 100 donated cars, Trawick said.
Those cars are then fixed up and driven at least 100 miles for testing by manager Glenn Zior, a resident of Mount Airy. Additionally, the cars are Maryland state inspected and have less than 200,000 miles on them.
This year, the organization has served about 10 families, but is aiming to reach 35, Zior said.
“So, those people are coming out of recovering things and need a hand up, not a hand out — as we say — they can get into a car assuming they have a job and they meet some other qualifications of ours,” Zior said.
There is a $500 program fee for the car, along with paying for the taxes and license plate fee, he said, but payment plans can be set up. They also charge a discounted $50 an hour for repairs, while the going rate in Frederick is $100 an hour.
Other donated cars are sometimes fixed up and sold at the garage’s lot, which, in turn, provide funds for the equipment, labor and refurbishing costs that come along with providing cars to low-income families, Zior said.
“We are trying to become a self-sustaining charity, which is very unusual,” Zior said. “A lot of charities have to depend on donors and grants, 100 percent.”
Besides becoming self sustainable, the organization earned the Business Waste Reduction and Recycling Award in December for environmental sustainability. Zior — as the only full-time employee — is also looking for volunteers to turn out more cars.
“The more help the better, obviously,” Zior said. “That means we can get cars out faster to help more people.”
Later, Zior planned to run out to pick up two donated cars, he said, which could be given to local families in the near future.
“It’s just something people don’t think about — getting to work, taking their kids to daycare or wherever,” Zior said. “They just put their keys in and go, and not everyone can do that.”