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New partnership connects those in need with reliable vehicles



WHEELS
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Jack Terrill, president of Lakes Region United Way, LRUW Resource Development Director Joyce Palmer, and Debby Miller of More Than Wheels are pleased to announce their new partnership to assist people in purchasing a reliable vehicle. A private computer facility at Whole Village Family Resource Center in Plymouth now brings financial guidance services and car buying assistance to residents of the area. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 24, 2012
PLYMOUTH — Technology is bringing more services to rural New Hampshire, and this month, More Than Wheels, with offices in Lebanon, Keene, Manchester and Portsmouth, has joined forces with the Lakes Region United Way to assist people in purchasing reliable, affordable transportation.

"Through our newest partnership with More Than Wheels, we're really excited to offer this new service here in Plymouth," said Joyce Palmer, Resource Development Director for LRUW.

A special, private computer room on the lower floor of Whole Village Family Resource Center now connects residents of the Plymouth area to More Than Wheels without having to travel to their offices.

Last week, local nonprofit agencies had a chance to meet with Debby Miller of More Than Wheels to hear about the unique program, and learn how it might assist their clients.

Miller explained that her agency is a car purchasing program that helps those with credit issues obtain reliable transportation at a low interest rate. It was developed by Robert Chambers, a former car dealer, who was tired of seeing people forced into buying "clunkers" that would not serve them well.

"Right now, I don't know if you're aware of it, but people with poor credit can pay up to 36 percent interest rates on a car loan," Miller said.

More Than Wheels works with its clientele to greatly reduce those rates, and find new or "gently used" cars they can afford.

"Like our name says, though, we are more than wheels, and we work with people to help them get on the right track financially, as well," said Miller.

There are no real income guidelines for applicants; they simply need to show a desire to change their financial situation and get their credit back on track.

Technology now allows residents to apply over the Internet, rather than in person, and once accepted into the program, to attend seminars, or "Web-inars," through a camera-based computer where they can interact with the instructor.

"If people don't have a computer with a camera, they can now come here and use ours," said Palmer. "We can even have groups go through the Web-inars together, and if enough are enrolled, we can arrange to hold a live seminar here at Whole Village."

Once accepted into the program, people are assigned a "credit repair coach" who will advise them. They also participate in a series of two-hour-long financial education sessions over six weeks to educate them on making sound financial decisions. Along the way, successful applicants are then asked to open a bank account and make regular deposits, as if it were for a car loan, to show their ability to pay on time each month.

"In the end, that money's theirs, but it shows the lending companies we work with that these people can make reliable payments. We want to see that that (financial responsibility) change is happening," said Miller.

The program can take anywhere from three months to a year to complete, depending on a person's credit report and what is needed to get them financially back on their feet.

In the end, they have a good, base model vehicle, and can move forward with better credit and reliable transportation.

More Than Wheels also assists those who have good credit, but simply hate the car buying process, or perhaps don't know what to look for when purchasing a vehicle, such as single or divorced women.

"There's a chain reaction of good events that happen when someone has a good reliable vehicle, and sometimes, they just need help in obtaining one," Miller said.

For people in immediate need of a car, More Than Wheels can occasionally lend them a vehicle while they complete the process of purchasing one of their own.

With income tax refunds arriving soon, Miller would like to encourage people looking to buy another car to become part of their program now. Rather than buying a "clunker" every year with their refund money, she said her agency can show them how that money could better be used to buy a reliable car that will last much longer.

"If they start with us soon, we can help them leverage that money better, and next year, they won't have to buy another junk car just to get by," said Miller.

More Than Wheels stays with people once that car is purchased, assisting them if they should have any other financial problems or helping to sell their vehicle should they find they can no longer afford it for any reason.

There is a $68 enrollment fee for those accepted into the program, and a fee of $895 for More Than Wheels and its services when a vehicle is purchased.

"That $895 can be added onto their loan, so people don't have to come up with it all at once," Miller explained.

The fees allow them to continue to assist others in the program.

"It costs anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 for each person we help, so we also do a lot of fundraising to come up with the rest," she said.

For more information on More Than Wheels, or to make a cash or vehicle donation for their "Bridge Car" lending program, visit www.MoreThanWheels.org or call 1-866-455-2522.

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