(CBS) — Twenty-six years ago, Molly Cantrell-Kraig was a single mother who relied on welfare.
“I was living with my parents, I had an 18 month old daughter, I was on welfare and I didn’t have a car,” she says.
Cantrell-Kraig says reliable transportation is key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
“As soon as I got a car, my life changed. Communities have a lot of resources to help a woman get a job, but there’s nothing in place to help her keep it,” she says.
Fifty-six percent of Americans over 18 who live in poverty are women. Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic.
In 2013, Cantrell-King founded the Women with Drive Foundation, which supplies used cars to women in need.
“As I started to research the problem more, I realized that the No. 1 reason welfare-to-work programs fail is the lack of reliable transportation,” she says. “The Women with Drive program partners with organizations who identify and vet individuals, and then we provide them with the transportation in order to keep that individual moving for the next two years.”
Women with Drive is giving away five cars to Chicago area women this weekend. The cars come from dealerships, churches and private donations and are given out based on need.
“One will be given in Lincolnwood, one in Mokena and three at the Joliet Speedway on Sunday,” Cantrell-Kraig says.
The program’s most recent recipient was orphaned at age 13.
“Now a successful graduate of the Chicago Women In Trades, Caress Pouncy is not only the first female welder in her shop, but the car we awarded doubled her hourly income,” Cantrell-Kraig says. “Because she has autonomous transportation, she benefits from a safer commute to work and has the ability to be assigned to job sites that fall outside the range of public transportation. Transportation connects women with opportunity.”
Women with Drive partners with the Recycled Ride Program and The National Auto Body Council.
For more information or to donate, log onto womenwithdrive.org