Among the challenges facing many single mothers is transportation.
“Having reliable transportation is an important step in helping single moms to be independent and provide for their children,” explains Andrew Martens, executive director of Regina Supercars, an organization he set up to provide cars to single moms.
“Transportation is essential for single moms to get to appointments, work or school, to church or the grocery store. As well, it’s more likely they will be employed if they have a car. By providing them with a car, Regina Supercars is helping to lift these families out of poverty,” says Martens.
Regina Supercars does not accept requests for cars from the general public, but works with community-based agencies and churches that connect with single moms.
“Our aim is to select women who have a stable financial and home situation. Often, low-income single moms can manage their day-to-day expenses, but the initial cost of a reliable vehicle can be beyond their reach. Getting a vehicle can increase their independence and make a significant difference to that family,” Martens says.
For Sara Lefave, being given a car from Regina Supercars means she’s able to keep her job as a youth care worker with Ranch Ehrlo. Part of the job is travelling to various locations throughout Regina and area each day.
“I can be in one house in the morning and another house in a different location later in the day. You need to have your own vehicle. If I didn’t have a vehicle, I would lose my job,” Lefave explains.
When she was recently facing financial problems, she couldn’t keep up the payments on her Jeep Wrangler. When it was gone, for a time she had to borrow a car from a family member to keep her job.
Then, last month, Regina Supercars presented her and her two-and-a-half-year-old son, Lincoln, with a 2005 Pontiac Pursuit SE with 114,000 km on the odometer.
“It means I can carry on with my job, and take my son to daycare and pick him up.”
Lefave is relieved to no longer have car payments. She’s able to handle the monthly insurance bill on her Pontiac — and she says it’s cheaper to fill up with gas than her Jeep.
“I was not expecting to get a car for free. God answers prayers. This whole experience has really humbled me.”
Martens says he started Regina Supercars as a way to help other people.
“Since retiring, my wife Karen and I have provided marriage, personal and financial counselling. This led us to working with a few single moms. I am also a car enthusiast and enjoy all things automotive. So this initiative is a practical way to combine these two interests; we are serving the local community in general, and helping single moms in particular.”
Martens got the idea after seeing similar programs in other cities in Canada and the U.S.
The cars are not new — but Martens says they usually still have plenty of life left in them. If a donated vehicle requires too much work, it is sold and the money is used to buy a more suitable vehicle.
“The cars we have received to date have been been model year 2000 and newer, in the $2,000 to $3,000 value range. Most cars have ranged from 105,000 to 180,000 km with only one having over 200,000 km. The lower the mileage, the longer the remaining life of that car.”
He says before the cars are given away, they’re given a complete inspection and required maintenance is performed.
“Fluids and filters are usually changed, and headlight lenses often need to be restored. We ensure the tires and brakes have at least half their life left, and if not, they are replaced. One car needed a new windshield. So the work we do varies from car to car, but it usually costs from $300 to $500 to prepare a car. Also, each car is given a full detail treatment so it looks its best when presented to its new owner.”
Martens says Regina Supercars depends on donations of cars and cash.
“As word of our organization has spread, so too has the number of cars that have been donated. Some have responded to our online classified ads, while others have responded to church announcements, for example. Anyone interested in making a donation can do so at our website, http://www.ReginaSupercars.com. We especially want to partner with local businesses and other supporters who can help supply automotive parts and services.”
Regina Supercars, which was established in 2017, has received five cars so far this year. Martens hopes to eventually be able to award at least one car per month.
“Our mission is to contribute to the stability and security of low-income families in our community,” he says.
Sara Lefave says the Pontiac has made a huge difference in her life.
“I was so overwhelmed with joy. This program gives people hope. It’s essential for single mothers. It can be really hard to get by without a vehicle when you’re a single mom. The reality is there are people who are struggling. This gives them hope and a fresh start.”
Someday she hopes that she will be able to buy her own vehicle.
“And if I do, I will donate this car back to the program, so someone else can have it.”
Dale Edward Johnson is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.