Ashley and David Meachum, of Mount Airy, received a 2000 Toyota Sienna from Boy Scout David Manzella, of Virginia, on Tuesday in Halethorpe. Manzella repaired and donated the vehicle for his Eagle Scout service project.
HALETHROPE — For Mount Airy resident David Meachum, trips to the grocery store had to be limited to whatever he could carry home. Without a car for a year, getting to work each day meant walking a mile there and a mile back home through the snow, rain or heat just to provide for his family.
On Tuesday, things changed drastically for the Meachums. They were awarded a car from Baltimore-based nonprofit Vehicles for Change.
While Vehicles for Change has provided more than 4,700 repaired and donated cars to low-income families in Maryland, Virginia and Washington since 1999, Tuesday marked the first time the repairs were done by someone outside of the organization.
David Manzella, a 17-year-old from Warrenton, Va., donated a minivan to Vehicles for Change and did all the necessary repairs in order to fulfill his Eagle Scout service project requirement.
Manzella planned the project, secured a vehicle, raised money for repairs and, with the help of eight Boy Scouts, completed the repairs, including mounting four new tires, replacing a headlight and turn signal.
His Eagle Scout service project coach Kathy Kulik suggested Manzella incorporate his love of cars into the project, as he is currently enrolled in the automotive program at his high school.
Beginning the work on the service project last year, Manzella was excited the present the vehicle to the Meachums on Tuesday.
“I’m just speechless that I could hand over the keys and know who the van is going to,” he said.
The van, a 2000 Toyota Sienna, was originally purchased in Maryland in 2000 by Manzella’s parents.
“It’s funny that 15 years later the van is back in Maryland,” Manzella said. “We bought a new car, and this was the one that the new car replaced.”
Manzella said the van that now belongs to the Meachum family, “runs and drives great.”
Having a car again is a relief for David Meachum, a father of four who said he couldn’t even take his children to doctor appointments before receiving the car.
Now, David and his wife, Ashley, can go on family outings, doctors appointments and even drive to the grocery store.
Ashley, who is 6 months pregnant and expecting a baby girl, is looking forward to another ride.
“Now I’ll have a ride to the hospital,” she said. The Meachums agreed that the holiday season was the perfect time to receive the vehicle. Pleased to finally have a vehicle Ashley said, “I told him not to get me anything for Christmas.” David compared the van to his favorite Christmas gift as a child. “This even beats my Power Rangers movie when I was a kid,” he said. David Meachum said the van will allow him to move up at his construction job and use the HVAC certification he received in college. After he graduated from Montgomery College in May 2013, Meachum was laid off from the position he held at the time. Shortly after, the engine went out on the minivan he owned, and he wasn’t able to afford repairs.
Ashley, a stay-at-home mom, is looking forward to the freedom that having a vehicle allows.
“We are extremely excited not to have to rely on other people [to give us rides],” she said.
In addition to having mobility, Vehicles for Change gives families a chance to establish or improve their credit. All families are required to pay a reduced rate for the vehicle they receive, and they can pay upfront or pay back a loan guaranteed by Vehicles for Change through a third-party lender, over the course of 12 months.
The Meachums will pay $835 for their van, using the loan program.
“A lot of families come to us with little or no credit, and when they get a loan through us, it’s a way to rebuild their credit,” said Jen Harrington, director of Organizational Image for Vehicles for Change.
Harrington said she was happy to help the Meachum family and appreciative of Manzella’s help.
“It’s incredibly fulfilling on many levels, and one is actually meeting the family we’re giving the vehicle to,” she said. “Especially this time of year with the weather being cold and standing outside at bus stops, it’s a fresh start. I think it’s a wonderful way to provide community service.”
Vehicles for Change awards 450 to 520 cars annually, but not just anyone can receive a car. Families must submit an application and proof of income to show they can keep up with the cost of maintaining a vehicle. Family size is also taken into consideration.
The Meachums’ case worker at Human Services Program of Carroll County referred them to the program.
“I presented their application to the board, and Steve Sullivan, associate director of Vehicles for Change, came up with the Boy Scout that was refurbishing the car and this family was perfect for it,” case worker Ivette Perez said.
“From the get-go, they brought everything I needed to present, so they were the lucky family.”
Before driving off in their new car, David Meachum expressed his gratitude.
“I want to thank everybody that was involved in this for all your work and all your effort,” he said. “This vehicle means a lot to me and my family, and I greatly appreciate it.”
The first outing for the Meachum family? Driving around Carroll County to see houses decorated with Christmas lights.
“They just know we’re going for a drive, so we’re going to surprise them and go see the lights,” Ashley said of their children, 6-year-old Matthew, 5-year-old Jonathan, 3-year-old Isabelle and 19-month-old Gabrielle.
“They enjoy that so much.”
Reach Sarah Hainesworth at 410-857-7873 or firstname.lastname@example.org