CIRCLEVILLE — One of Pickaway County’s biggest concerns is low labor force participation, and many organizations are working to remove barriers for people looking to work.
One such organization is Pickaway County Community Action (PICCA) which has a Wheels to Work program which provides additional funding to help people purchase a car so they can have reliable transportation to and from work.
Nick Pruitt, program coordinator at PICCA, said the program had taken on new life this year.
“We made some much-needed changes to it,” he said. “We still have our vehicle matching where someone saves $1,000, takes our online personal management training, and then we match their $1,000 to $4,000. Along with this, you must have pay stubs to verify that you are employed and eligible for income or attending some sort of educational institution.
Pruitt said he has a great relationship with a Grove City dealer who works with PICCA customers to help find the right vehicle for them.
“They help connect our customers with vehicles that meet their needs,” he said. “A mother of six doesn’t need a red convertible, she needs a minivan and they keep a small inventory of those types of vehicles available.”
Pruitt said once the training is complete, they use their savings to meet with a PICCA representative and purchase a vehicle.
Pruitt said they have a new side to funding, the auto repair side of the program.
“It’s the same qualifying things, working or going to school and having qualifying income, and we have a partnership with Blankenship Auto Repair,” he said. “We can pay up to $1,500 in vehicle repairs to keep their vehicle in working order and maintain their access to work or school.
Pruitt said they also have a partnership with a Class A driving school to help adults who want to go to driving school go through driving school.
“We’ve really strengthened the programs,” he said. “This is one of our community service grant block programs and we received a grant from the Pickaway County Community Foundation to really help with the program. Community United Methodist Church provided a few dollars to help . »
Pruitt said the need is a big need and it’s not a low cost need and therefore they don’t have a blank check to help everyone who qualifies and is in need. . From now on they can donate about eight cars a year and they have a waiting list.
“We already have a waiting list of about 16 people and unfortunately our funding for the next two years is 16 people and that’s it,” he said. “We are trying to find creative ways to get more financing for purchases and repairs. The way the car market is right now, cars are hard to come by. If we can keep people in their current car, we’ll help them if we can.
Pruitt said he likes the program because it helps stabilize the workforce.
“Transportation is one of the biggest obstacles we hear every year when assessing the needs of our community,” he said. “We have our public transit which I would love to see more people using, but I understand the freedom of having your own vehicle and getting around on your own schedule at your own pace and the importance of that too.”
Pruitt said he thinks this program will continue to grow and exist for some time due to the scale of the need in the community. He shared some stories of some people who have been helped by the program.
“We have a lady who really had nothing and she was walking to work every day and we were able to get her to qualify for the program,” he said. “Instead of walking a few miles to work each day with knee issues, she has a vehicle to drive and a safe vehicle to take her children to their activities.”
Pruitt said every person they’ve helped with a vehicle has been a success.
“You help them stay connected to things that will help them find a better place in life,” he said.
Pruitt said anyone interested in helping with the program can contact PICCA’s main office at 740-477-1655. The apps are currently unopened, but Pruitt said they will reopen them and share them on social media when the time comes.