After a year without a car, Savannah McIntire of Manchester has her independence back. She and her three kids, ages 7, 4 and 2, can now jump in their 2005 Chrysler Town & Country to go grocery shopping rather than having to find a ride. And she’s just one of the 100 Granite Staters that Good News Garage has donated to this year.
“We had been without a vehicle for about a year. It’s very difficult to do that with three children, between doctor’s appointments [and other essential trips]. Simple tasks [like] grocery shopping was monumental. Finding a ride from someone to fit me, my three children and groceries was a very difficult thing to do,” McIntire said. “We no longer have to swap out car seats or rustle up some gas money for other people.”
McIntire uses the van to get to work and run errands, but she also used it for a special trip shortly after getting the car from Good News Garage.
“I was able to take my children to the beach this summer. My oldest had been to the beach, but my two youngest had not. It’s been great to do some recreational things as well,” McIntire said.
Good News Garage processed its 5,000th vehicle this month, since its founding in Burlington, Vermont, in 1996. The organization just celebrated its 12th anniversary in the Granite State, where it provides about 100 cars a year, and Gov. Maggie Hassan has proclaimed December Donate a Car month.
Partnering with the New Hampshire Employment Program, Good News Garage gets cars to people who have to get to work but have no transportation, said Susan Swain, marketing and communications manager of Ascentria Care Alliance, of which Good News Garage is a member. Good News Garage also helps people looking for work and those in training programs.
“We call ourselves a ‘Wheels to Work’ program,” Swain said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time. And it’s truly life-changing. Typically it’s a single mom here in New Hampshire. If you don’t have a car, you’re stuck, so it’s pretty amazing. It’s for local families trying to get to work, trying to raise their kids.”
McIntire couldn’t say enough about the program.
“The people that work there are fantastic, they are so nice. Just really out of this world; they go out of their way to do anything they can. The way they hand over the car to you is remarkable. They provide so much more than just the vehicle. Giving me that sense of accomplishment is something I couldn’t do by myself.”
McIntire said they took her to the garage where her van was repaired and explained all the repairs to her. She also said they will provide her with the first three oil changes and a warranty.
Swain said donations are taken from all over New England and upstate New York, and that Good News Garage will tow cars from anywhere in New England. In 2013, 221 cars were awarded between New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
“The donations have been down. People are holding on to cars a little longer. We are seeing cars that need more repairs or have more mileage. We are struggling to find suitable, reliable cars,” Swain said.
December is usually the biggest month for donations.
“We fully inspect it. We go beyond the standard inspection criteria, very much so, because a typical donation is 10 years or older. It’s well-maintained but does need some work,” Swain said. “We put in approximately $1,500 into every car. The goal is to provide a vehicle that will be safe for at least a year, without any major repair.”
Unsuitable vehicles are auctioned and proceeds go to repairs on other cars. Good News Garage also accepts handicap-friendly vehicles, as well as luxury and specialty vehicles; in the past, it has received a Porsche and a 2010 Phantom motorcycle. The organization has also accepted campers and riding lawn mowers, and Swain said those were either auctioned off or sold.
Swain said Good News Garage partners with about a half dozen garages in the Manchester area.
There is about a four- to six-month waiting list to receive a car, Swain said. Good News Garage also works to match the recipient with an appropriate car. For example, a mother of three wouldn’t receive a two-door car, and someone with an hour commute to work isn’t likely to receive an SUV.
In the last five years, people in 97 cities and towns in New Hampshire have been awarded vehicles.
Good News Garage also accepts cash donations, which go to providing tires, oil changes and repairs. They also take “good, usable” tires and car care items, such as jumper cables, Swain said. People can donate via phone at 877-GIVE-AUTO or online at goodnewsgarage.org.
When donating, the tax deduction is fair market value on the vehicle, Swain said, and it can exceed the trade-in value of an older vehicle.
Recipients do not get to find out whose donation they received, but they are encouraged to write “thank you” notes to the anonymous donor.
McIntire wished to thank all the donors who give to Good News Garage.
“Without them, it wouldn’t be possible,” McIntire said.
As seen in the December 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.