“I hadn’t realized how difficult the world is to navigate without a set of wheels until God showed me how much easier it is with wings!” says Gabrielle Gates.
Those “wings” came from an organization called, Wheels Transportation Inc., a ministry of compassionate individuals dedicated to helping meet the transportation needs of people in Cincinnati and the surrounding area by reconditioning donated vehicles and giving them to qualified recipients.
Gates sent an application to Wheels shortly after having a stroke while still in recovery from a massive heart attack. She had been working full time to support her two children and spending most of her wages on transportation. She recalls crying tears of joy when Wheels provided her with a Ford Freestar.
“Almost immediately, I was able to accept a new position. My kids were able to participate in sports and activities. These are important but seem small in comparison to the day-to-day relief I felt,” Gates recalls. “I no longer had to use expensive ride services or wait at bus stops in inclement weather with my kids. I could step out of the food desert that I live in and provide my children with healthy and affordable food choices. We now had the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and family members.”
Since the ministry was founded in 2002, Wheels has provided over 1,200 vehicles to those in need. They began by providing four cars a year and, in 2019, they provided 135. The goal for 2020 was 150 cars. Though the pandemic shut them down for five weeks, Wheels reopened in late May, and in June provided 21 cars.
“We started out as a sponsored ministry out of a small church on the west side of town, New Hope Community, and we outgrew the resources that church had,” recalls Al Duebber, the founder of the Wheels ministry. Wheels now works its motoring miracles in and distributes repaired vehicles from what was once an automotive accessory center in Cleves.
Matt Murphy of Crossroads church oversees a number of functions within the Wheels ministry. He credits much of the ministry’s growth to its partnerships. These partnerships provide the financial support needed to get the work done.
“This has all been designed and set up by a group of people with very limited automotive experience, but they just have a passion for helping solve the crisis of people not having a car,” Duebber says. “And the teamwork that has developed from this ministry has been phenomenal. It’s a true story of faith and commitment.”
Wheels has a core group of 20 volunteers, some with mechanical experience and some with none. They learn as they go. Only a few spent their career in auto or truck maintenance and repair. Others are former Delta Air Lines employees, police officers, firefighters, and engineers. But whether you are an ASE certified technician, a backyard mechanic that loves to tinker or someone that likes to make a car shine, there’s always room for Wheels volunteers, Duebber and Murphy emphasize.
“The heart of the ministry is people, not cars,” says Murphy. “The sense of camaraderie of the volunteers is what makes it so special. The relationships that form among the volunteers only deepens our faith and the belief in the work that we are doing.”
Gates agrees that her faith has deepened with her experience with Wheels, and she is paying it forward.
“I recently purchased a new vehicle and God instructed me on exactly what to do with the old one,” she says. Gates met a young single mother of three who was trying to decide if she should pay her college tuition or continue paying for a rental car so she could keep her job. Gates gifted her the Ford Freestar that was given to her through Wheels. “Thank you to Wheels for planting the seed in my heart and allowing this blessing to flow through me,” Gates says.
Wheels Transportation Inc. always welcomes volunteers. Another way to support this ministry and provide wings to those in need? If you have a used car that is in decent condition that you are thinking of trading or selling, consider giving it to the Wheels ministry instead.
You will receive a tax deduction for the car’s fair market value, but more importantly, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have been a huge blessing to someone else.