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Community Auto in Pine Provides Affordable Transportation to Families in Need

The program now operated by North Hills Community Outreach helps families all over the region.

Without a reliable car, Christal Simmons wouldn’t be able to get to work, let alone take her three sons to school, doctor’s appointments and church.  

Then Simmons learned about Community Auto in Pine Township. On Monday, she purchased a low-cost vehicle from the organization.

“I’ve never had a reliable vehicle. It is so freeing to be able to walk out the door and know my car is going to start, and that it is mine,” said Simmons, a single mother who lives in White Township, Beaver County. Simmons has three sons, ages 4, 7 and 10.

CA is one of the programs that operates under the umbrella of North Hills Community Outreach. NHCO assumed ownership of the nonprofit in early 2010, according to Executive Director Faye Morgan. 

CA was  founded and operated by a small group of community volunteers in 2003. NHCO began assisting CA in 2005.  It made sense, said Morgan, for NHCO to assume the program in 2010 to ease the burden on the volunteers and use the name recognition of NHCO to help in soliciting car donations and funding.

Since NHCO assumed ownership, Community Auto has sold 109 cars at very low cost to families and individuals with lower incomes.

Community Auto is housed in the building owned by and next-door to Hub Cap City on Route 19 in Wexford. Ed Holdcroft, owner of Hub Cap City, also serves as Community Auto's car consultant. He was an early volunteer with the program, and he evaluates cars that are donated to CA and performs what Morgan referred to as “car triage.”

Every car donated is used in some fashion, Holdcroft explained.

“I look them over to see what they need—see if we can take them to one of our garages to fix for a client car, if we can take it to auction to sell or if we need to scrap it,” said Holdcroft. 

Holdcroft looks at his role as not only using his professional skills after 35 years in the automotive industry, but as a way of serving his community as a Pine Township supervisor.

“We work with the people in Pine and nearby areas. This program is important to our area,” he said.

Money earned from a car sold at auction or scrap is used to fund the program, Morgan said.

Community Auto's manager, Elizabeth Edwards, said the program needs donated cars, as it currently has only two on the lot.

“We have 15 people ready to buy and 33 on the list to take the workshop, and then they will be ready to buy,” she said.

Edwards referred to the car care workshop clients are required to attend after they meet other program requirements.  To be eligible to purchase the low-cost vehicles, clients have to either have a job offer “in hand” or be employed for at least 25 hours a week. Clients also must meet criteria for income level, and they must have saved $2,200 to be able to purchase the car.

“We sell the cars at 30 to 40 percent below market value, plus they have a six-month warranty, an AAA membership, car seats if they need them and a full tank of gas,” she said.

Most of the clients are from Allegheny County, while a few, like Simmons, come from surrounding counties.

“We don’t have bus lines to a lot of places here in the North Hills,” said Morgan, “The cars have made it possible for them to get to the jobs, work shift work and in some cases, receive promotions that require them traveling to other areas or locations.”

While most of the programs offered through NHCO offer what Morgan said is “a little bit of help to a lot of people,” the Community Auto program offers “a lot of help to a small number.”

That help can be life-changing.

“With these cars, our clients can get a job, keep a job and maybe get a better job. That makes a world of difference to these families,” said Morgan.

Simmons agreed.

“When I was telling a friend about my new car, I started crying,” she said, “I can’t believe it is mine.”

PR Proud October 15, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I donated a vehicle (Honda minivan) two years ago to Community Auto with the affirmation that the vehicle would restored and given/ sold at very low cost to a needy family. Beyond needing front tires, the car was inspected and ready to go. To my disappointment, Community decided to auction the car rather than fulfill their promise to me. There are so many needy charities out there; I would probably choose another if I ever donate a car in the future.
Patty R. October 18, 2012 at 02:38 PM
My experience with CA was very positive. Our family donated a vehicle a few years ago. Two gentlemen and a woman from CA came to pick it up. The repairs that needed done (more costly than we wanted to invest) was something both men where very experienced at taking care of. We all felt confident a family would benefit from our donation and the efforts of the mechanics working with CA.
Tammy K. October 18, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I had been on a very extended medical leave due to severe complications from the H1N1 flu at the end of 2009. I was a very successful business woman with 2 Master's degrees and then found myself on Welfare and losing everything...my cars, my home, utilities were being shut off every other week. I went from making a descent salary of almost $70k/year to support my family to $403/month.When I finally was able to re-enter the wrokforce, I had know way to do it. I have 2 children, so public transportation was not an option. NHCO pointed me to Community Auto. I was able to purchase a 2003 vehicle for approx. $3,000. I had no money and lost all of my credit. I finally had a wonderful new job, but no means to get to it. CA made that possible for me. My current husband and I are considering donating a much older cargo van to them, but when I spoke to them about it they said they would most likely have to auction it or scrap it and use the proceeds to further the program. I think that is wonderful. Not every vehicle is worth fixing to be road worthy, even ours which is a 1976, but only has about 65k miles on it and runs like a champ, except needing a new brake line right now. I understand their thought process on this as an accountant and MBA graduate. I was given a 25% chance to live 2 years ago, but now I am happily remarried and thanks to CA, was able to accept a position that has become my dream job. THANK YOU COMMUNITY AUTO and NORTH HILLS COMMUNITY OUTREACH!!!
PR Proud October 18, 2012 at 04:12 PM
That was exactly what they told me, as I was sorting through all of the various charities that needed my car. I chose CA because they assured me that there was a distinct need for roadworthy minivans (my donated vehicle was inspected and may have needed front tires only for the next inspection), for families. Despite the running condition of the vehicle, they sent it to auction and a family missed out on a car that would have offered years of reliable service at minimum cost to CA. I am not saying that CA is not a worthwhile charity, but I am saying that if I would have known that my car was auction-bound from the start, I would have chosen another charity.

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