As of May 15, HOP eligibility has expanded to include NC Medicaid members who are eligible for Tailored Care Management through Vaya Health or Partners Health Management.

Working Wheels

PARTNER STORY

Driving Change in the Community 

Anna relies on her car daily to take her to and from work, pick up her children from school, get groceries, and many other errands. When her car broke down, she didn’t know how she was going to support her family. The needed repairs cost too much money. Anna was relieved to discover she could get help through the Healthy Opportunities Pilot (HOP), a program she qualified for through her Medicaid insurance. 

A costly car repair can be daunting for anyone. It is usually unexpected and stressful. Working Wheels, an Asheville-based nonprofit, was created in 2014 to provide affordable and reliable transportation options to working families in need in Western North Carolina.

Founder Neil Leach met with Asheville community members to explore regional transportation challenges. Looking for a quick way to provide help, he established an Asheville chapter of Wheels 4 Hope. This North Carolina-based organization provides donated cars for purchase at an affordable price. 

Wheels 4 Hope was a great start, but it wasn’t enough to address the complex needs in Western North Carolina. Neil established Working Wheels as a new nonprofit to better meet these needs.

Working Wheels’ flagship program is their vehicle purchase program. This program allows participants to buy a donated car for only $610. Cars that are donated to Working Wheels are inspected and repaired, making it a reliable vehicle for a participant to purchase.

Owning a car improves an individual’s quality of life in so many ways. For Marie, it meant getting three hours of her life back every day. She used to spend four hours commuting to work in Asheville and Black Mountain. After purchasing a vehicle from Working Wheels, she had more time for work, her family, and friends. 

“It’s a rush of excitement every time we see an individual get their keys, get in their car, and drive off,” said Gillian Bee, Working Wheels program director. “The energy is always so positive.” 

Owning a car also improves access to healthcare. A recent Western North Carolina study found that individuals are twice as likely to attend medical appointments if they have access to reliable transportation. 

In 2020, Working Wheels added a vehicle repair program to help families keep their cars safely on the road. By partnering with local mechanics, Working Wheels can provide low-cost vehicle repairs for participants. To help them expand their repair services to more community members, Working Wheels joined HOP in 2022.

“Joining HOP allows us to access more individuals and to scale up and implement our model at a larger capacity,” explained Gillian. “We know how much these repairs help our community. HOP wants to do the same thing: be proactive and help these individuals. It’s helping us address a critical gap.”

To date, Working Wheels has brought vehicle relief to over 186 HOP families in Buncombe, Madison, Yancey, McDowell, Henderson, and Haywood counties. They are currently on track to help over 290 vehicle repair clients by the end of this year. 

“It’s a rush of excitement every time we see an individual get their keys, get in their car, and drive off... the energy is always so positive."

– Gillian Bee, Working Wheels program director

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