“Four years ago, I gave my car to a hopeless individual,” says Connor Drake ’12. “It completely turned Marcus’ life around, and he would refer to the car as ‘The Gamechanger’ due to the impact the car had on his life.”
In fact, this gift would be a gamechanger for Drake, too, because he was inspired to help more people like Marcus.
It isn’t all that common or easy for people to donate cars directly to individuals. Donated cars are usually flipped for quick cash, and due to middlemen, on average less than a third of the car’s value makes it to charity.
Drake began working towards creating his own nonprofit that donates cars directly to people. Today, that nonprofit is called “Wheels 2 Work” and has so far donated six cars to individuals in need. The organization takes donated vehicles in working condition with a Blue Book value of $2,500 or more, and gives them directly to people so that 100 percent of the car’s value makes it to the recipient.
To accomplish this, Wheels 2 Work has so far partnered with nonprofits such as Refugee Response and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) to get cars to those who need them. Drake handles the logistics of finding and securing the cars, making minor repairs and doing the legal paperwork.
How do the cars help? Recipients are affected because cars help them maintain stable employment by getting them to work consistently and on-time. Having a vehicle gets those in need to doctor visits, to grocery stores and to visit family members, to name just a few of the benefits.
“Overall, a car can significantly increase the quality of life of not just for the recipient of the donated car, but also for their families and broader communities,” Drake notes. “For example, Afghan refugees are often placed in living spaces in low-income areas, and a car helps them to get jobs in other areas.”
Wheels 2 Work is made possible by Drake and a fellow Saint Ignatius alumnus, Noah Toumert ’12, who works for Refugee Response and provides assistance through building the website and making connections to donor recipients. Additionally, Drake says their work would not be possible without his mother, Therese Drake, who is a lawyer and has assisted with the legal paperwork.
“I spent a lot of time with the Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless and Saint Joseph of Aramathea Pallbearer Ministry while I was a student at Saint Ignatius,” Drake says. “Because of these programs, I started asking the right questions like, ‘What is God’s will for me?’ and ‘How can I help?’ and ‘What is my role?’”
In seeking answers to these questions, Drake has discovered that, “Working with the marginalized is the only thing that works for him. He began to realize that in his time at Saint Ignatius.”
That seed planted as a student has grown into Wheels 2 Work and the impact on those it has served and will continue to flourish.
To learn more about Drake’s work and car donation requisites, visit the organization’s website www.wheelstoworkcleveland.org