Steering towards a better future

Steering towards a better future

Partnership between Epworth Children & Family Services and LETA Charitable Foundation helps provide vehicles to young people in need

By Charlotte Beard

The partnership between Epworth Children & Family Services (located at 7520 Natural Bridge Rd.) and Frank Leta’s LETA Charitable Foundation have made a great impact on the transportation needs of 30 older youth since 2017. The implementation of United Way’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program at Epworth has made it possible for these youth to acquire quality pre-owned automobiles from Frank Leta’s family of dealerships.

Deanna Allsman, Epworth’s Assistant Director of Older Youth Service stated, “We have been in partnership with the United Way IDA program since about 2009. There are several different assets that the youth can purchase with their matched funds which the United Way provides; a vehicle is one of those (assets).”

People who enroll in Epworth’s youth program before their 25th birthday can continue with Epworth’s services going forward. The IDA program helps the older youth learn financial management skills, as well as establish a savings account.  Participants can save a maximum of $1,000 and receive a $2,000 match from the United Way. The partnership with the LETA Charitable Foundation matches the IDA amount for an additional $3,000 for cars purchased at a Frank Leta dealership. 

“Over the years we struggled with the vehicle part for the youth,” stated Allsman. “Most of our youth don’t have any credit and they lack co-signers. So, they were purchasing vehicles for $2,000 to $3,000 which means they’re not getting the most reliable vehicles out there. (We had) been talking about how we can assist these youth in connecting them with a car dealership that would provide them with a reasonable finance option so they could purchase more reliable vehicles.”

The partnership recently marked the purchase of its 30th car since the program began.  Juliona Wease bought a 2012 Kia Rio from Frank Leta Acura thanks to the foundation and the IDA program. 

Wease is a 22-year-oldmother of two who participated in the partnership because she needed a reliable car to get back and forth to work and to pick her children up from daycare.  She is currently attending school Strayer Universityand studying business management.

Allsman stated that in 2017 while Epworth’s former chief development officer was discussing the transportation issues of its youth with Steve Brown, General Manager of Frank Leta Acura, Epworth’s officer discovered that the LETA Charitable Foundation partnered with other agencies to assist them with acquiring vehicles for their clients. The conversation resulted in Allsman collaborating with the Foundation for Epworth’s youth.

“They were very excited about the IDA program,” stated Allsman, “because the youth have an investment in the money. (The youth) are attending the financial education classes and they’re saving their own money – they’re already invested in this process.”

 “We had a relationship with (Epworth) prior to forming our foundation,” stated Brown. “When we formed the foundation, we decided that we wanted to focus on helping people who hadn’t already had a chance in life to be productive members of society and maybe they were dealt a bad hand. We wanted to give them a ‘hand-up.’ Some of these kids who go through the Epworth program have had a challenging beginning to their life. We felt a partial donation of a vehicle would allow them the mobility that they would need to transport themselves to work or school, or if they have children. Any of those situations are a lot more challenging in St. Louis when you don’t have personal transportation. So, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for the people who have already shown initiative and determination to make something of themselves – not (letting) their past predict their future.”

Allsman explained further how the LETA Charitable Foundation’s partnership makes the $6,000 possible for acquiring one of the dealership’s automobiles.

“Not only is (the foundation) contributing the $3,000,” stated Allsman, “they are taking (the purchase of) that vehicle down to ‘cost.’ They are not going to make any profit off these vehicles that they are selling to our youth. That $6,000 goes to the purchase of the vehicle. Our real goal is that we don’t want the youth to have to finance. This gives them a nice reliable vehicle for their first vehicle purchase. We did have one youth who decided she could afford to finance a little additional for her vehicle, so Frank Leta really worked on getting her a reasonable finance rate.”

Brown shared that ancillary products (warranty, maintenance, etc.) are also sold at cost.

According to Allsman, the allotment of two years to save money to qualify for the foundation’s match is a requirement of the United Way program. With approval from the United Way, that timeline may be extended in some cases. Additionally, Allsman shared that participants are not required to save the full $1,000; a two-to-one match is possible with a savings of $500. However, there will be less available funding for a vehicle purchase. Participants may opt to use their IDA savings and matched funds from the United Way towards other major needs such as a security deposit for a new apartment, furniture, secondary education, or a bicycle and helmet in lieu of a car, for example.

All youth are required to be employed to participate in the IDA program, and must attend 16 hours of financial literacy hosted at Epworth. The United Way secures all presenters for the classes. In addition to these presenters who are United Way partners from financial institutions, the University of Missouri-St. Louis facilitates some classes at Epworth’s facility.

“The staff members at Frank Leta that have helped our youth purchase the vehicles have been so extremely helpful for them,” shared Allsman. “They really take the time to explain what they need to be looking for when they’re purchasing a vehicle. We teach that to youth in a classroom setting – what to look for. But when they’re going to put that information into practice – the staff at Frank Leta take the time to care enough to explain the whole process to these youth.”

CUTLINE: Submitted photo Juliona Wease bought a 2012 Kia Rio from Frank Leta Acura thanks to the LETA Charitable foundation and Epworth’s Individual Development Account program, which is funded by the United Way and implemented by Epworth.