When New England-based Ascentria Care Alliance started taking a look at where its efforts might have the most impact on the community, the answer was clear. The nonprofit has on a roll ever since.
Ready to Go, a transportation service it offers through the Good News Garage arm of the agency’s programs, was initiated in Worcester this past April and has already begun making it easier for people to get to work.
The car service is arranged through, and available to individuals who are current recipients of Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and allows them to schedule rides to get to and from work, and for their children to get to and from childcare between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
In keeping with the meaning of the word “ascentria,” which Regional Marketing Director Susan Swain said represents the notion of “rising up together,” the service is in its pilot year in Worcester after experiencing much success over the past 22 years across Vermont, where more than 30,000 rides are scheduled each year.
Good News Garage started in Burlington, Vermont, in 1996 under the leadership of Hal Colston and with the support of Lutheran Social Services of New England, several Vermont churches and a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries.
“The Ascentria business office is located in Worcester,” she said, “and we have a strong base in this community. We felt connected to expanding this service to this city because we understand that transportation is one of the top two barriers to people getting out of poverty situations. We felt we could have an impact here.”
With five drivers currently on staff in Worcester — two of those drivers are people who once received services from Ascentria - and, as New Americans who have resettled in the city, they have elevated their lives and now find gainful employment with the nonprofit. Looking toward the future, program leaders hope to see more success in that realm so that they can help start to break the cycle of poverty.
The Ready to Go program is just one of many offerings at Ascentria that program manager Stacey Todd says is a reflection of the core values of the Lutheran church.
“Our goal in all of our programs is to show our faith in action, this means we’re living our values of courage, compassion and integrity through our work,” she said. “We’re helping neighbors in need, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or economic status. We couldn’t run our program without the generosity of our neighbors, because we run on donated minivans, it begins there, and we work to be good stewards to our community every step of the way.”
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