On the road again

Henrico church donates vehicles to single mothers in need
Pastor Michael Jones (at left) and his wife, Pastor
Tanya Jones (at left), pose with two recipients
of cars donated by Village of Faith Ministries.
Michael Jones remembers how helpless he felt as a child, watching his mother remain in a difficult relationship with a boyfriend simply because she needed reliable transportation and he owned a car.

“He held the keys of the car over her head,” Jones said of the man.

The experience made a lasting impression on Jones, the pastor of Sandston-based Village of Faith Ministries, a 1,500-member church that also holds services in Midlothian.

“I did not want for any single mother to go through something like that,” he recalled.

So in 2007, Village of Faith Ministries began its ‘Cars for Christ’ program, which receives donated used cars from church members, repairs them and donates them back to single mothers in the community. In the four years since, the church has given away 13 vehicles – including three last week to surprised recipients during a New Year’s Eve extravaganza at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond.

The women who apply or are nominated for the giveaways must meet a list of criteria, Jones said. They must have jobs and be able to pay for their own insurance, gasoline, maintenance and other aspects of a vehicle. The church typically receives two to three dozen nominations each year.

The vehicles are not handouts, Jones said, but rather gifts that permit the women to meet their family obligations and create new opportunities for themselves and their children.

“We just want to empower them economically to make their lives better,” Jones said.

Each year, the giveaways are emotional for Jones and his wife, Pastor Tayna Jones, who also was raised by a single mother. The recipients do not know they’ve been selected until their names are called, and their reactions are heartfelt.

“I can’t look at them sometimes, because I’ll cry,” Jones said.

He’s hopeful that other churches will begin similar programs to receive and repair cars, then give them away to deserving single moms.

“We want to be able to get to the point where there are no single moms without a car,” he said.

The donated cars received by Village of Faith have come from members and are repaired primarily through the volunteer efforts of mechanics who are also members of the church, Jones said. But the recipients of the cars are not always members of his church – or even any other. Two of this year’s three recipients don’t attend Village of Faith.

For Jones, the program represents the true meaning of giving and the holiday season.

“It kind of restores hope in the American dream,” he said. “There’s still a lot of good that goes on that we can all do together.

Though many car owners trade in their vehicles rather than donate them, Jones helps some will reconsider.

“That car is going to mean a whole lot more than $1,500 or $2,000 to the person who gets it,” he said.

That’s become clear to him during the past four years, as he’s interacted with the recipients. The program provides a way for the church’s members to see the faces of those they’ve helped – something Jones prefers to the impersonal option of simply making a monetary donation to a cause.

“It’s easy for us to cut a check, but we want our church members to serve,” he said. “It is through our community outreach programs that we are able to see what our community is in need of and how the church can rebuild trust with the community.

“If the doors of our church closed tomorrow, I know that there are 13 women that we have helped. It’s a heck of a way to start a new year.”

For details about donating a car to Village of Faith Ministries, or to learn how to help, call the church at 328-3404 or visit http://www.myvofm.org.
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