By Merrily Brast, Staff Writer
1992 Jeep Cherokee. That was my first car. Can you remember yours? The feeling of pride and freedom that came along with driving a vehicle you could call your own?
It’s easy to take that privilege for granted. But imagine if you had no vehicle, and no personal means of transportation.
This is the reality for most of the men and women in the UGM Recovery programs. Many rely on public transportation for their daily commute while others who own a vehicle experience the burden of handling all the mechanical issues that accompany maintaining a "clunker."
Recognizing this need, the Union Gospel Mission created the Vehicle Assistance Program. VAP allows individuals in UGM Recovery or the Employment Ready Program to be nominated by a staff person to receive a free vehicle from UGM Motors.
Not everyone who goes through Recovery receives a car. Need is a factor in the decision-making process. Single moms who are transporting children to and from daycare while also trying to get to work - oftentimes spending hours on the bus each day - rank high on the list. Responsibility, work ethic, commitment to ongoing recovery and the ability to properly maintain and insure the car are important considerations, as well.
UGM Motors Manager Jim Stroh explained, “We don’t take choosing a recipient lightly. We want them to be able to maintain the vehicle. We want them to be able to have insurance and all those things. We make a pretty big effort to make sure they are capable and competent, and that it’s going to benefit them moving forward.”
Angie Wolfinjer is the most recent VAP beneficiary. Angie completed the Recovery Program at the UGM Center for Women and Children in Coeur d’Alene and was nominated by Marsha Reese, the VocEd Coordinator at the Center, to receive a car.
Angie’s previous automobile had 300,000 miles on it, making her commute to work questionable at times. Angie lives in Coeur d'Alene and works in Spokane.
"It's a godsend," Angie said of the gifted car. “It’s a 2001 Saturn, 4-door, so I’m moving up from a 1996 Saturn. It’s awesome.”
Marsha had fun surprising Angie with the news about the car. “I put my car keys in a bag, and I had her open the bag. She went, ‘Wow!’ And so she’s jumping up and down, and then she went, ‘Yeah, I totally detailed that car.’”
As it happens, Angie was also chosen for one of UGM's Employment Training Opportunities - generally a one-year position aimed at helping Recovery graduates rebuild their work history, re-enter the work force within a safe and healing environment, and establish positive references. Angie's ETO assignment is as a part-time detailer at UGM Motors. And so, she ended up detailing her own car before she knew it would be hers.
Angie is full of gratitude - not only for the car, but for her recovery, the love she has experienced at the Center for Women & Children, her job and the support she receives from the community at large.
“God has a plan, He always has a plan. Seems like He’s always late, but He’s always on time.”