Visiting grandchildren, pursuing higher education, going to medical appointments, and even taking a drive to see the fall foliage aren’t easy things to do when you don’t have a vehicle. That changed Friday for 10 Maryland veterans who received new cars, thanks to the Heritage | MileOne Autogroup and the nonprofit Vehicles for Change.

“‘Thank you for your service’ is always the end of a conversation when it should be the start of one. What makes today so spectacular is the fact that you are showing that that phrase has weight to it and showing that deeper appreciation,” said Gov. Wes Moore when addressing the people involved. “We have individuals who have had to pick up the pace and pick up the weight for an individual who was deployed and we have people who were deployed overseas who were leaving their homes, leaving their neighborhoods, leaving their communities, leaving their employment and doing it because the nation asked them to raise their hand. This is the best part of my day right here.”

Brenda Jones, a Baltimore County resident and a woman who previously served in the Army, said that she was spending a significant portion of her income on ride-hailing apps such as Lyft and Uber just to get to work.

“A vehicle is not just a machine but it’s a lifeline, the key to independence, and the freedom to move,” she said. Equipped with her new vehicle, Jones plans to enroll in school and spend a lot more time with her grandchildren.

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Brenda Jones, an Army veteran, hugs Gov. Wes Moore after receiving her new car. Heritage | MileOne Autogroup donated 10 vehicles to veterans via the nonprofit Vehicles for Change on Nov. 10. 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Brenda Jones previously served in the Army and is now pursuing a career as a nurse. She spoke about how having a car will enable her to take classes, save money on ride-hailing apps while going to work, and spend more time with her grandchildren. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Brenda Jones smiles out of the window of her new Hyundai Elantra at the Heritage Toyota in Owings Mills on Nov. 10, 2023. “I’m going back to work today but maybe later I’ll drive to the club!” she said. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Transportation is the main barrier for employment and education, so the gift of personal transportation is life changing for many. Vehicles for Change is a nonprofit that has repaired donated cars to give to families in need of reliable transportation for the past 24 years.

Recipients pay $950 as well as tag, title and insurance costs for each vehicle, and the nonprofit handles the rest. If the recipient cannot afford the $950 upfront, a loan is available. Seventy-five percent of VFC recipients have been able to get better paying jobs, explore higher education and increase their wages.

Jones was not the only recipient who has big plans for her life with transportation. Paul Carrington, who served as an Army sergeant, will use his car to look for better career opportunities as well as visit family members and attend all medical appointments at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Yul Hicks, who served with the Navy, plans to use his new car to help his daughter, a single mom, with his grandchildren. And Jaun Hayes, who served for seven years in the Army and two years in the Air Force, plans to use his vehicle to transport his five children to their activities.

Gov. Wes Moore presented a new vehicle to Paul Carrington, who served as an Army sergeant, on Nov. 10, 2023, at Heritage Toyota in Owings Mills. Carrington will use his car to pursue more career opportunities as well as visit his family members. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Heritage | MileOne Autogroup donated 10 vehicles to veterans via the nonprofit Vehicles for Change on Nov. 10. 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Jaun Hayes laughs at the thought of transporting all five of his children around to their daily activities with his new car. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Heritage | MileOne Autogroup donated 10 vehicles to veterans via the nonprofit Vehicles for Change on Nov. 10. 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Kaitlin Newman is a photojournalist specializing in multimedia coverage. Her main areas of focus are politics, conflict, feature and breaking news. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing from Towson University, which is where she is also the professor of photojournalism.

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