We recently had a very exciting week in the Safe Haven community. It was especially exciting for one deserving mom from our transitional housing program. Several months ago, Mike Zeller from Providence Auto Group, approached our executive director (Joyce Lavery) with the idea of giving away a car to a family in need. It was an opportunity that I almost couldn’t believe! About half of our clients come to shelter with a car, but I always joke around that it will blow up/break down while they are here. Unfortunately, that really is what happens most of the time.
With this opportunity, I felt a lot of pressure to decide what family should be a recipient of a good, reliable car. Most of our families would fit into that category. But when the time came, LaToya just really jumped out to me as the one who couldn’t live without it.
LaToya came to the shelter in April 2012. She was working full time doing janitorial work. She was driving a car at the time. It had been her friend’s car, and her friend told her that if she took over the payments, they would put the title in her name. Unfortunately, what happened was that LaToya caught them up on their payments and then came and took the car away from her. Riding the bus was a huge hardship. Nashville doesn’t have a very well-developed public transportation system. In order to meet the time frames to get her 4 children to daycare and before school programs (some of which are not even on the bus line), LaToya often had to take a cab for part of her morning and afternoon commute.
While in the shelter, she decided to start on a new career path and completed Certified Nursing Aid training at NHC Franklin. After completing the training, she was able to find employment quickly at a nursing/rehab center off Nolensville Pike. There was also an opportunity for her to move into a recently renovated transitional house in Berry Hill.
LaToya works extremely hard, but even with all her wonderful opportunities and accomplishments, transportation was still a huge barrier. She started working nights at the rehab center and taking GED classes during the day. Her children are in a 24-hr daycare in Madison, while she lives and works in South Nashville. The bus couldn’t get her and her children everywhere they needed to go and get them there on time. She ended up renting a car for a couple weeks to make sure she could make it everywhere on time.
LaToya was the obvious choice for a donated car. I presented her story to Mike and his team and they immediately felt that she was “the one.” A core part of Providence Auto Group’s mission is to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
“We’ve chosen to partner with great local non-profits, like Safe Haven, who invest in redeeming lives and providing opportunity and hope,” said Mike Zeller, business development director at Providence Auto Group. “Being in the car business, we know how important having a car is to being able to work and carry on your normal life,” he continued. “Our hope is to eventually give hundreds, if not thousands, of cars away over the course of our business, helping families, single parents and other individuals get back on their feet, while building a great life.”
The van is beautiful, even equipped with a DVD player and the team at Providence supplied them with a small DVD library. The timing was perfect, as LaToya’s twin 9-year old boys have their first football game in Clarksville this weekend. This car will just help LaToya to be able to further her goals and get around in a more efficient way. She took her GED last week, and we are anxiously awaiting the results. She plans to starting nursing school in the new year, but also is considering working towards opening her own 24-hr childcare center, possibly in South Nashville. She, along with most of our clients, experience how the lack of childcare during non-business hours really limits parents’ work options. She would like to use her experience, along with her passion for children to fill some of that need in our community. LaToya works so hard, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing of her continued successes in future blogs!
Jennifer Reason, LBSW is the Program Director at Safe Haven Family Shelter.