CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wendy is a 23-year-old mother of two young children. She grew up in poverty and had her first child when she was 15. The children's father, quite a few years older than her, worked as a security guard. For a while, they had enough money to get by. Then he got involved with drugs and lost his job. Wendy couldn't deal with the drug abuse and the harm it might cause her children. She made him leave until he got clean.
He didn't get clean. Wendy, armed with few skills, could not make enough to maintain the family. She became destitute. Nobody in her family could afford to help her. With no other options, she applied for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. She received $340 a month for her and her two small children.
Wendy swore that she was going to raise her babies differently than she was raised. She enrolled in WV Works, as people who get cash assistance must do. WV Works aims to help economically dependent families become self-supporting.
That is a very important part of the safety net because, since the mid-90s, no adult can receive cash assistance from welfare for more than five years in their entire lifetime. During this crucial period, the state Department of Health and Human Resources staff work hard to get families to a point of self-sufficiency. They match the mother or father's capabilities with professions that will maximize their earning potential. They then arrange training for professions where there are actual job openings.
Wendy worked hard and got her GED. An Education Specialist assessed her and recommended that she become a Licensed Practical Nurse. Success was within her grasp, but she had no way to get to her training center. There was no public transportation, and she had to take her youngest child to daycare while she was in training.
As she faced this dilemma, a Charleston family's' last child was graduating from college, getting a job and buying a new car. His college car, a 2001 Plymouth, needed some work but was in pretty good shape. His parents heard at their church about a car donation program that helps people get to work. They wanted to help, so they donated the Plymouth to the Good News Mountaineer Garage.
The Garage fixed the car and made sure it was safe and dependable. Wendy was referred to the Garage by her caseworker at the Department of Health and Human Resources. She got the Plymouth.
As a result, Wendy got her training, her certificate and a decent-paying job in a field that needs trained workers. She got off welfare and became a tax-paying West Virginian. She moved to a safer neighborhood. Her kids participate in after-school activities. She shops at a nearby grocery store and takes her kids to the doctor when they need to go. She is currently studying part time to become a Registered Nurse. Her life, her children lives, their futures, turned around because a kind, middle-income Charleston couple decided to donate their son's car.
Wendy wrote a thank you note to this couple she did not know. She told them about her children and her aspirations for their future. The couple keeps that thank you note on their refrigerator. Every day, it tells them their act of kindness made a huge difference in the lives of three fellow West Virginians.