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Susan Jacobs

Wheels of Success
Purpose Prize Fellow 2012

Jacobs helps low-income families with limited access to public transportation obtain dependable, affordable used cars and car repairs, so they can get to and from work.

Years ago, when Susan Jacobs escaped an abusive relationship, she had to leave her home and car behind. The limited public transportation in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, where she lived, made it hard to get to and from work every day.

Jacobs never forgot how difficult it was to be carless in Tampa. Years later, as a manager at a staffing agency, she began offering rides to low-income clients without cars. “There were programs available to help people with job skills training, resume writing, job searches, interview skills … but there were no programs available to help them actually get to work,” Jacobs recalls.

Out of those free rides grew Wheels of Success in 2003. Since the first two vehicles were donated, repaired and reconditioned, Wheels of Success has helped close to 500 Tampa Bay-area families secure reliable, affordable cars.

Program participants buy a car from the program by making low, interest-free payments, contributing at least three volunteer hours per month for 12 months and attending free car-care classes. At the end, participants receive their car titles.

Wheels of Success also offers car repair services; more than 500 families have received repairs. And the organization provides financial assistance for down payments, car payments, licensing and automobile insurance. Nearly half of the nonprofit’s clients are domestic abuse survivors like Jacobs.

“I can honestly say that I love going to work every day knowing that the work I am doing makes a positive difference in the lives of others – and in my own as well,” she says.