DENVER - Andrea Ramos couldn’t hold back the tears as she got behind the wheel of a red four-door 2004 Hyundai Elantra. She gripped the wheel and then covered her face, as the tears streamed down her cheeks. She’d been waiting a long time for this.
“Everything I do, I do for my kids,” the mom of three said. “And I want them to be able to have a good life. And having a car will do that.”
Ramos has three children -- all under the age of nine. When she moved to Colorado with no family around, she did all she could to provide for them… but it wasn’t enough. For a time, the family was homeless and relying on public assistance. That’s when Ramos found the Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE). The nonprofit provides an intensive 30-hours-a-week program that helps participants learn the skills they need to get jobs and develop careers.
“Looking people in the eye, shaking their hand, showing up on time for work. (That’s) what CWEE is all about and what makes our program so successful,” said Baret Walker, director of development at CWEE.
The Denver-based program helped 323 people get jobs in the 2016 fiscal year. The average starting wage was $11.06. Andrea Ramos is one of the program participants who got a job, but getting there wasn’t always easy.
“It’s a struggle, a lot. Especially in the winter. I really was scared about what we were going to do this winter,” Ramos said.
But, now, she doesn’t have to worry. She’ll be driving the Hyundai Elantra… the one she got for free.
For the first time, CWEE partnered with Denver Rescue Mission’s Vehicle Program to give away cars to two deserving program participants. They had to write essays stating why they need the car, why they deserve the car, and how they intend to cover the cost of insurance, maintenance and license plate fees.
LaQuetta Walker was another program participant to receive a car. She struggled with a disability that caused her to be unable to work.
“I had to learn to walk again,” Walker said. “I am appreciative of that public assistance. And, now that I’m self-sufficient, I don’t need it anymore.”
Walker received a 2002 Honda Civic. She says she’s looking forward to driving to work, to the grocery store and maybe to the High Country.
“It’s nice to know that there are people in the world who really care about those of us who are really trying to take care of ourselves,” she said.
The cars were both donated to Denver Rescue Mission’s Vehicle Program. The program uses a master mechanic, professional mechanics and participants in the Rescue Mission’s rehab program. They work together to fix up the cars and make sure they’re safe for driving.
“We do everything we can to fix that car and use it for a gift for someone in need,” said Denver Rescue Mission Vehicle Program Supervisor Pierce Farrill.
Ramos is grateful for the gift she’s received. As she wipes away her tears, she also notices that her new car is a stick shift.
“I love it! I wanted a stick,” she said while thinking through her family’s budget. “I know they’re good on gas!”
The Center for Work Education and Employment will be holding its annual fundraising luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 22. The event is open to the public. To learn more, click here: http://cwee.org/annual-luncheon.html
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