Charity helps low-income people buy reliable cars


LAST WEDNESDAY was a big day for Henry Shrewsbury and his 5-year-old son, Phillip.

It was one of the last days that they would have to struggle with public transportation to get to Johns Hopkins Hospital for Phillip's cancer treatments.

The Shrewsburys are one of four Carroll County families who have bought cars from a nonprofit organization that repairs and sells donated cars to people who otherwise cannot afford reliable transportation.

The organization is called Vehicles for Change Inc., and its success can be attributed to a host of agencies, businesses and its executive director, Martin Schwartz.

VFC assists low-income families by selling them inexpensive, newly repaired cars and identifying resources to help these families pay for insurance, title, tags and taxes.

The organization was incorporated in February with the sponsorship of Precision CertiPro Warehouse Inc., a Chantilly, Va.-based parts distributor.

Thursday night, the Shrewsburys went to Harris Automotive Inc. in Westminster and picked up a burgundy 1990 Plymouth Acclaim that they bought for $650.

"If we have to get to the doctor on short notice, it will be easier now," said Joyce Shrewsbury, who was eager to add that even though Phillip has eight more months of chemotherapy, he is doing much better.

"He's getting so back to normal that he is fighting with his two sisters [Jennifer, 11, and Kayla, 7]," she said.

The others who purchased cars were Sabrina Love Davis, 23, who bought a 1985 Nissan Sentra for $650; Thomas McAvoy, 37, who purchased a 1988 Chevrolet Caprice for $700; and Andrea Slate, 27, who bought a 1988 Honda Civic for $700.

The cars were repaired at Harris Automotive and V & S Automotive.

"This car is giving me independence," said Slate. "I'm able to get back and forth to work, take my kids to activities and doctors' appointments."

"We see this as a win-win program for everyone," Schwartz said. "Low-income people get a chance to buy affordable and reliable transportation, and our employees and business affiliates get a chance to contribute to a community service program that is allied to their businesses. Their willingness to donate labor and materials means that someone may have a chance at succeeding."

Later this year, repaired cars will be sold to families in Baltimore City and Prince George's County. Plans call for expansion into the rest of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, the state in which Precision CertiPro Warehouse operates its 26 branch offices, Schwartz said.

For information about Vehicles for Change Inc. call 800-836-3821.

Sprucing up West End Place

Members of the Carroll Garden Club recently went to the West End Place, an adult day care center in Westminster, to plant an herb garden.

Their work is part of a project they hope will evoke happy memories and encourage seniors at the center to get out and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air.

They planted lavender, two kinds of sage, ladies mantle, lamb's ear, bee balm and other good-smelling things inside the yard's rectangular garden.

"We really had fun. It was a beautiful day, and some of the clients were able to come out and get their hands in the soil and enjoy the sunshine," said garden club member Connie Hoge. "We're happy to take something that we enjoy doing and share it with other people."

Westminster resident Joan Mann and Uniontown resident Lois Sebastian joined Hoge in this project.

Lisa Breslin's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

A telephone number for Vehicles for Change Inc. was incorrect in the Central neighborhood column Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun. The number is 800-835-3821. The Sun regrets the error.
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