What's happening around ChangingGears
“I was at the lowest point in my life when I came to ChangingGears; it saved me.” Cathi tears up as she recalls the difficult years she experienced following the loss of her job. She couldn’t find full-time work that paid a living wage; she had exhausted unemployment benefits and tapped into her 401k. Her mother was ill and dying so she made many trips to Columbus, Ohio, where her mom lived, putting strain on her already aging Jeep. Cathi found a part-time restaurant job but wasn’t earning enough to pay her bills. Her daughter moved in with her and helped with the rent. “You never expect to be in a position where your children have to financially take care of you,” she says.
She learned of CityLink through her church. The programs there helped her rebuild her confidence and trust herself again. She found a part-time sales job but it requires her to travel to accounts that range from Maysville, Kentucky, to Springfield, Ohio. Her jeep was, “falling apart, a little at a time,” she says. “It’s by the grace of God that I made it in that car because I got to a point where I never knew when it would break down.”
Once connected to ChangingGears, she quickly completed the ownership classes and her sweat equity. The 2007 Subaru Forester she purchased from ChangingGears, “has been a godsend,” she exclaims. “It has room for my product samples and drives well. I love everything about it.” Without the worry of an unreliable car, she continues to thrive in her sales job. She has set a goal to be in sales full time by next spring and eventually leave the restaurant. “From the lowest point in my life, ChangingGears helped me not only survive but thrive.”
Fifteen hours. That’s the amount of additional free time Gerald now has each week because, “I got the car I wanted,” he says with a huge smile on his face.
Gerald, an Army veteran, was working full time until a medical condition forced him into disability status. As a new medication improved his health, he worked part time, then his van broke down. He had to rely on family members loaning him their cars to get to work and he also used public transit – although it took two buses to get to and from his job. He worked a night shift ending at 10:00 p.m. “It took me until midnight to get home riding two buses with a wait in between,” he explains. “I remember sitting at bus stops in cold, snow and slush. The stories I can tell about what I saw waiting at those bus stops late at night!”
Then a co-worker told Gerald about CityLink and ChangingGears which requires clients to earn at least $1,000 a month before getting approved for a car purchase. “It took seven months for me to save for the down payment, but I believe you have to be patient and work to get the things you want in life,” he says. He enjoyed putting in his sweat equity in the ChangingGears shop and he saw several cars that were ready for clients. “There was a Toyota Highlander I really liked but I thought it was supposed to go to someone else. I believe God chose that car for me because it worked out that I got it and it’s excellent.”
While waiting for his car, Gerald had been applying for other jobs. One offered a swing shift from 4:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. “That’s a shift many people don’t want but it pays more per hour. However, there were no buses on my route running at 1:00 a.m.,” he explains. “Then the car became available at the same time as the job.”
Now Gerald estimates he has 15 extra hours a week he’s no longer spending waiting for and riding on buses. “I’m getting more sleep,” he says, and he’s sharing his good fortune. “I’m driving a co-worker home too. It feels good to help someone else.”
Two years ago Guy and his wife were working, raising their family, and driving two cars. He was 20 years into a career in private policing and working on a master’s degree when he lost his job and couldn’t find another. “My wife became the sole breadwinner. Bills were piling up and my car was repossessed,” he says. “I couldn’t afford to pay tuition to continue my master’s degree. The situation was depressing and distressing.”
A year into his unemployment, he heard about Per Scholas, a nonprofit organization that offers tuition-free technology training to prepare adults for IT careers. He was accepted into and completed the rigorous program. Ready to find an IT job, he realized his options were limited without a car. Then he was introduced to ChangingGears. “I felt I needed a car that day, but with SmartMoney Counseling Services I learned I first needed a budget and a steady paycheck,” he says.
Guy took his first IT job at a school. He completed the ownership classes and did his sweat equity in the ChangingGears garage and in the spring of 2018 he and his wife drove home a Chrysler Town & Country minivan. The impact of the van became even more apparent a few months later when the school where he worked closed. As he began a new job search, “I realized with my new van I didn’t have to take a job based on transportation convenience. I can find a position doing something I love in an environment where I can grow.” He has since found another IT job.
“ChangingGears is touching lives in a profound way,” Guy says as he sums up his recent challenges. “Sometimes people get blessed and walk away, but this is not something I take lightly. This van has been an opportunity and a blessing.”
Je’Miah was raising her younger sister in 2013 when she lost her job and her home. However, she didn’t lose hope or her determination to get herself on the path to a better future. She moved in with her brother and took two jobs, working half days at a call center and nights in a restaurant kitchen – often finishing work around 1:00 a.m. Her days began at 7:00 a.m. because it took two hours on two buses to arrive at work on time. Despite little time left in her schedule for sleeping, she persisted. “I want my sister to look at me and realize that you can’t control what decisions your parents made and the things in your past, but you can live the life you want for yourself,” she says, “you have to believe you can do it.”
Je’Miah enrolled at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and a mentor connected her to the CityLink Center where a service coordinator introduced her to ChangingGears. She had never owned a car and getting one became a goal. “I realized I had some bad financial habits I had to change,” she explains. “This was the first time I actually looked at how I spent my money, and figured out how to set money aside and save it.”
The car ownership classes required at ChangingGears helped Je’Miah understand the added expenses of insurance and maintenance. By learning and saving, she was approved for a ChangingGears vehicle and in the spring of 2014 became the proud owner of a 2006 Ford Taurus.
With her own car, Je’Miah’s life turned in a completely new direction. Instead of spending four or more hours a day on a bus, she picked up extra shifts at the call center. Impressed with her commitment and reliability her supervisors promoted her, which allowed her to quit her night job and devote more hours to her college classes. She graduated with her associate’s degree and honors in the spring of 2017 and was offered a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. She’s now enrolled in a master’s/Ph.D. program with majors in anthropology and African Studies and a history minor, and future plans that include research, travel and nonprofit leadership.
“Having a car has opened doors for me,” says Je’Miah. “It may seem like just a car to the person who donates it, but it’s so much more. It can be a game-changer to the next person.”
“My family spent 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before we arrived in Chicago when I was 18.” That’s how Narayan, who was born in Bhutan, explains his childhood. For the next five years the family lived with relatives, worked and relied on Chicago’s public transit system. Wanting to live in a city with a slower pace, they arrived in Cincinnati in 2015 where he, his father and brother found work with the support of extended family. “We all worked at the same place with my cousins, and we all shared one car,” Narayan explains. “It was tough to share rides; we were used to Chicago’s public transportation but in Cincinnati, you really can’t get anywhere without a car.”
Following a cousin’s lead, Narayan enrolled in the Per Scholas technology skills training program, graduated and was hired as an IT consultant. Around that time, he also learned about ChangingGears and completed the requirements to buy a car, choosing a Honda Accord. The timing was right for him both professionally and personally. “I needed to work at client sites in Beavercreek, Dayton and other places. Without my car, my work options would be really limited and I wouldn’t be as marketable,” he says.
“My car has also helped my whole family. We live 20 minutes from the closest bus stop and we still shared one family car with my sister about to start college,” he explains. “I got my car in July and she began driving our family car to the University of Cincinnati in August.”
Narayan now drives his Honda to his current IT placement with a Cincinnati bank. “I am really happy that I got to be part of the ChangingGears program. I am helping my entire family.”