WEST HARWICH – Things were not going well for Adelia Marquis. Once, she lived and worked on Nantucket, enjoying her job as a landscaper. But then the hard times hit, and with force.
“I struggled with homelessness for quite a while,” Marquis said.
Thrown out of her home due to her sexuality, Marquis then lost her job due to COVID-19 layoffs. Faced with the unfathomable decision of where to go, Marquis opted for a group home rather than a shelter, fearing that shelter life would be too grim.
“I hit very hard times,” she said. “Unfortunately my parents are very old-fashioned, so I ended up being thrown out in the middle of this god-awful pandemic. It shouldn't be happening in this day and age, but it is.”
While living in a group home wasn't Marquis's ideal, it did put her in contact with social workers that helped manage her case and help her find her way to a more stable life. Part of that was securing Marquis a car courtesy of Good News Garage.
“Adelia was referred to us by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, through a partnership we have with the MRC to award a certain number of cars to their clients each year,” said Thomas Kupfer, marketing specialist at GNG.
In order to qualify, MRC clients must have a written plan for employment. Cars are then secured through donation, after which they are inspected, and if deemed reliable, are repaired and readied for the road before delivering to recipients.
“They interviewed me almost immediately,” said Marquis of Good News Garage. “Before, I had to commute back and forth from work, relying on coworkers or my own two feet. Their whole program is helping me claw my way out of this really crummy situation.”
Now working at a pharmacy in Dennis and living in affordable housing in Harwich, Marquis said her new-to-her wheels – a Honda Element – have empowered her beyond simply venturing to and from her job.
“Hopefully with this car I can commute back and forth to school, which I'm trying to make happen,” Marquis said.
Ideally, if she's able to make her dreams a reality, which feels much more possible now that her life is turning around, she'd like to work in film, having written a number of screenplays. But in the meantime, she's focusing on a trade job, either landscaping or plumbing.
The gift of the car, Marquis said, went a long way toward helping her feel better about her future.
“I was relieved,” she said. “I felt like there was hope.”
Her message to others is simple: consider donating your old car to Good News Garage.
“I'm surprised programs like this don't exist more widely,” she said. “You need a car as much as you need a cell phone. It's become a need for people. I wish there were more programs like this across the country, especially in rural areas.”
Good News Garage was actually founded in a somewhat rural area, becoming established in Burlington, Vt., in 1996. Its mission was simple – provide New England families with donated vehicles, ideally empowering them to shift from poverty to financial independence and social stability. Car donors, meanwhile, have their prospective donation towed free of charge, and if the car is awarded to the family, receive a tax deduction.
In order to receive a car through the Wheels to Work program in Massachusetts, which provides refurbished cars to people with disabilities who are unable to afford them, qualified applicants must be clients of MRC and have an individual plan for employment.
“I could encourage the general public, I would definitely urge them to donate cars. It takes [Good News Garage] a while to get them,” Marquis said. “They take their time to make sure it's a solid vehicle and not something that will fall apart on you. If I was in a position to donate myself, I would definitely donate 10 times over.”
For Marquis, her donated Honda has given her much already, especially freedom.
“I didn't feel trapped in one spot,” she said. “I felt like I had the freedom to do things I needed to do without relying on others. It's opened a lot of doors. Should I enroll in college this winter, I can actually go and do that. It really is an obstacle not to have a vehicle. Compared to where I was, I see hope.”