Sometimes the difference between self-sufficiency and struggle can be reliable transportation.
The founders of AIM Services recognized this reality, and the nonprofit ministry based at St. Mary, Mother of God Church in Fort Wayne has been working since 2002 to provide low-cost, reliable vehicles to people and families in need.
“To me, it really is an extension of our faith,” said Ken Yahne, AIM Services president. The ministry draws inspiration from the Gospels’ “Good Samaritan” parable, he explained, and from Matthew 25, in which Jesus calls people to care for “the least of these;” those who are experiencing poverty and suffering.
AIM Services has helped 15-20 people a year, said Yahne, a retired Fort Wayne attorney. The buyers receive a no-interest loan from the ministry covering the cost of a vehicle and fees, and must pay $50 per month — or a lesser amount if they can’t afford that total — toward the cost of their vehicle.
Yahne sets the sale price at the market value of the vehicle for a private party sale, based on the vehicle’s age, mileage and condition. Buyers typically pay from $1,500 to $2,500, he said.
The biggest challenge has been generating enough donations of well-maintained, older vehicles to meet the demand from eligible clients, he said. Donated vehicles can have minor problems that AIM Services will repair before selling the vehicle to a client.
“It’s easy,” Yahne said of vehicle donation. “All they have to do is make the decision.”
He handles all paperwork, and donors receive a tax deduction equal to the market value of the vehicle.
Owners typically don’t receive full market value for a vehicle, he noted, if they trade it in at an auto dealership or donate it to other nonprofits; the latter of which must value the vehicle at the amount they receive from selling it at an auto auction.
Yahne works with local social service agencies, especially Vincent Village, to identify people in need of a vehicle. On a recent day, for example, six of the 10 families living in the Vincent House portion of Vincent Village didn’t have transportation, said Denise Andorfer, the nonprofit organization’s executive director.
Vincent Village helps homeless families learn to manage their finances and lives as they gradually move toward living on their own again.
Having reliable transportation allows people to get to and from work without a vehicle breakdown and to pursue potentially higher-paying jobs located off local Citilink bus routes, Andorfer said. They also can participate in their children’s school programs and events, attend church services and support group meetings, and connect with a support system of family or friends.
“My car was kind of falling apart. I was very scared to drive it,” said Amber, a Vincent Village client and mother who now drives a reliable vehicle from AIM Services. “When I got the (AIM Services) car, it was a blessing. I was walking and people were taking me to work.”
The $50 per month payments have been very affordable, she said.
Vincent Village makes it easy for families by allowing them to make AIM Services vehicle payments at the same time they make their payments for living in Vincent Village housing, Andorfer said. Her staff also screens the families who need a vehicle to make sure members have a valid driver’s license and can afford to buy gasoline and vehicle insurance.
To assist additional clients with transportation, Vincent Village also started a Care Car program with funding help from the city of Fort Wayne, Andorfer said. A Care Car driver will take Vincent Village clients to medical and mental health appointments, job opportunities and child care providers.
Yahne said the AIM Services ministry can be replicated easily in other areas of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and he’s willing to help groups get started. The need is great, and so is the program’s impact.
“It’s a life-changing event for one person,” Yahne said. “You help one, and then you help two.”
How to help
The nonprofit AIM Services ministry seeks donations of well-maintained, older vehicles so they can be made available to people in need who lack transportation of their own. AIM Services will make minor repairs, if needed, before placing the vehicle with a client.
Donors will receive a tax deduction for the current, private-party sale value of the vehicle.
People who receive a vehicle through AIM Services buy the vehicle on a no-interest loan and normally must pay $50 per month toward what they owe. AIM Services uses the loan payments to prepare other donated vehicles for use by additional clients.
To donate a vehicle, call Ken Yahne at 260-438-9216.
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