For retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Felix Garcia, it has meant having a reliable vehicle and peace of mind. For retired U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremy Voss, it has meant living without debt. Both Garcia and Voss are recipients of payment-free vehicles from Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Transportation4Heroes program.
Since 2015, Wells Fargo’s sponsorship has enabled the nonprofit group to award vehicles and provide one year of family and financial mentoring to combat-wounded veterans or Gold Star spouses. As a result, recipients have paid off more than $105,000 in debt, improved their credit scores, and reached other financial goals as they have transitioned from military to civilian life. In October 2019, Wells Fargo and Military Warriors Support Foundation awarded another vehicle and celebrated reaching a milestone of more than $1 million in support for vehicle payments and family and financial mentorship contributions.
“Our Transportation4Heroes program is about more than awarding a payment-free vehicle to combat wounded veterans,” said Senior Vice President of Military Warriors Support Foundation Andrea Dellinger. “When veterans leave the service and begin reintegrating into their communities, our programs are there to ensure they have the resources needed to be successful through family and financial mentorship. We look forward to working with Wells Fargo in 2020 and beyond to continue providing transportation to veterans and Gold Star spouses across the country.”
Once the nonprofit identifies a recipient, Wells Fargo Auto works with a local automobile dealer to jointly sponsor the payment-free vehicle. The recipient receives the vehicle at a ceremony, and Military Warriors Support Foundation initially takes title to the vehicle. After the recipient completes one year of mentorship, they receive the vehicle title. On average, recipients who have completed the family and financial mentoring have paid off an average of $10,100 in debt.
“Helping people succeed financially is the backbone of our company’s vision, and that’s one of our goals with this program,” said Laura Schupbach, head of Wells Fargo Auto. “We’re pleased that beyond being able to provide reliable transportation for veterans, we’re also supporting their journey to financial stability and success.”
‘I am very appreciative’
Garcia, of Sugarland, Texas, received a Ford Expedition in 2017. He said he applied for the program because his previous vehicle was old and would break down, but he could not afford to purchase another. “I had debt that would not have allowed me to be able to make the payments for a new vehicle, and I was in need of one,” Garcia said.
He now has a reliable vehicle, which has reduced his stress. During recent inclement weather, his school district asked parents to pick up their children because buses were not able to transport students home. “I was able to go and get my kids without worrying that I would get stuck if it was flooded on the way there,” Garcia said. “It is nice not to have to worry that your vehicle is not going to start because something is wrong.”
And because Garcia doesn’t have to worry about making car payments, he has been able to save money and pay off debt. “It has raised my credit score to where, if I was looking for a new home, I would be able to qualify, which is nice,” Garcia said. “I am very appreciative for what Wells Fargo and Military Warriors did for my family and me.”
Reducing the burden
Voss, of West Des Moines, Iowa, received a Kia Sorento in 2017. He had originally applied for Military Warrior Support Foundation’s Homes4WoundedHeroes program, but the nonprofit group told him about Transportation4Heroes. At the time, Voss had just become the father of twins. “My truck would not have fit all of us for more than a quick trip, so we applied with the hope that we could get a vehicle that would help us travel to family,” Voss said.
Since receiving the vehicle, Voss’s family is now debt free. “No student loans, no car loans, no mortgages,” Voss said. “We live a debt-free lifestyle, which not very many people can say. The program has reduced that burden to nothing, and we’re thankful.”