Keys to Progress: Company’s program helps Veterans succeed with donated cars


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Over the past five years, Progressive’s Keys to Progress® program has donated more than 500 cars to Veterans in need — and those cars have changed lives.

“It was a day I’ll never forget,” said Army Veteran Toby McNutt who received her car on Nov. 9.

During the year before the donation, Toby was teetering on the edge of homelessness, with a car that she couldn’t rely on.

She was living with her dad, working a part-time job, and starting business classes at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, when her dad decided to move to Indiana. Toby wanted to stay in Topeka, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford housing on her own, so she reached out to VA. Her VA caseworker helped her find an apartment through a supportive housing program run by the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development — called HUD-VASH.

This solved one problem, but Toby had another: Her car was still unreliable. She said it would break down whenever it was most inconvenient.

“I’d leave work to go to lunch and my car would stop, about two or three times. My old car stopped on me at school,” Toby said. Her VA caseworker got word and told her about Progressive’s Keys to Progress program. Toby didn’t hesitate to apply.

IMAGE: McNutt

Toby McNutt (center), accompanied by her two daughters, accepts her new car donated through Progressive’s Keys to Progress program.

Now, Toby drives her 2016 Chevy Malibu to work and school without fear of it leaving her stranded.

“It’s more than just winning a car,” said Toby, “it’s people appreciating your service.”

On the other side of the country, on that same November day, Navy Veteran Michael Santos (pictured at top of page) received his Keys to Progress donation in Fresno, California.

For years, Michael had been living with seasonal affective disorder, which caused him to fall behind on rent in the winter. He would always catch up on his payments during the sunnier months, and his landlords were OK with that — until he encountered one that wasn’t. After one winter of missing rent with a new landlord, Michael was evicted. He was homeless.

It wasn’t until about a year later that he found Veterans Plaza, a transitional service, and began his journey out of homelessness. Soon after, Michael was put in touch with a VA caseworker and enrolled in HUD-VASH, which helped him find housing.

With a place to call his own, Michael decided he wanted to pay it forward, so he began volunteering at a number of Veteran-centric organizations. The commitment was rewarding but proved difficult — in part because he didn’t have a car.

“In order to do everything, I was spending 15 hours a week on the bus,” said Michael.

Michael’s VA caseworker heard of this and told him about Progressive’s Keys to Progress program. He quickly applied. It was fortunate timing because two weeks after receiving the car, Michael severely injured his back.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with public transportation,” Michael said. “If I didn’t have this car, I wouldn’t have access to the services I need. It really enables me to live a fuller life.”

Once Michael makes a full recovery from his injury, he plans to set up a group at his local Vet Center, where Veterans can watch movies together and open up afterward about how the films made them feel.

These stories wouldn’t be the same without the hard work of Progressive employees who support the Keys to Progress program, like Veteran Alex Rucshner, senior trainer for claims. Alex works with VA caseworkers and VA partner organizations to identify Veterans who are eligible for Keys to Progress services.

“Lack of transportation holds people down and takes away their freedom — it doesn’t give them a chance to be stable, to hold down a job, to get to their doctors’ appointments, to do everything they need to do,” said Alex. “And we like giving freedom back to the people who fought for ours.”

Toby and Michael received two of the 115 cars that were donated in 2017.

Veterans interested in receiving a 2018 donation must receive the appropriate forms from a non-profit or a VA staff person, as well as meet certain criteria. From there, they can submit the application to the Keys to Progress program themselves or through a family member or lawyer.

Those who receive donations will get a refurbished car, a full tank of gas, car insurance payments made for six months, and other assistance based on where they live. With more than 60 Keys to Progress event locations nationwide, Progressive looks forward to gifting at least 100 more Veterans with vehicles this year to help them move forward in their lives.

More Information

  • Visit the Keys to Progress website to learn more.
  • Visit VA’s website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
  • Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).

IMAGE: Holly Hirshel

Holly Hirsel, a social worker, employed with VA’s national Homeless Program Office where she works with the community engagement team to develop and maintain partnerships with public and private entities to advance the availability of resources to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Case Western Reserve Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and an undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University majoring in both psychology and social work.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. lee d hendrix    

    Need assistance with free laptops for veterans.

  2. Eddie Howard    

    I would like to know about the car programs and what i have to do. Please let me no.

  3. Thomas Gene Vickery    

    Hi! I know the filling of homelessness,i’m also a veteran. I was homeless for 2 years and living in my car in 2016-2018. I now have my own apartment, but my car is in bad shape. But don’t make much money at my job,and my va-benefit. So,I just keep my fingers crossed and keep going.

  4. Walter Kingsley    

    I am a Vet. I need a car, I do not have one and I would like to get a form to fill out to get a free car. I am 78 years old. I was in the Army from 1958 to 1961. Is it possible to get a car? Please send a reply at ( redacted) My name is Walter Kingsley. web site is windows 10

  5. joaquin martinez    

    Where do i apply for a vehicle donation,my wife is disabled and cost for her care is through my employment salary i’d like to get a newer vehicle but can’t afford a car payment,i have a little toyota corolla but is nearly twenty years old.

  6. Jack Beverly Liebenow    

    I am having problems getting a loan and getting a car. Was homeless for 2 1/2 years at Soldier On here in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Didn’t know cars were being given to Veterans. Thanks for your help.

  7. David    

    VA transportation assistance request July 29, 2018

    Dear Holly,
    Thank you for your time and efforts at helping veterans get help.

    I just found out Friday, July 27th, 2018 that I might be able to get help with my transportation needs. It was an email from the VA: Vantage Point blog regarding Keys to Progress Program.

    I need help, please.
    I am a 71 year old Viet Nam, U.S. Army veteran. I have been judged as fully disabled by the VA (mental and physical).

    I am currently getting around by foot and by bus for all my shopping, appointments, etc.
    I am becoming more and more exhausted after my running around; I literally collapse when I get home.
    My legs are hurting pretty bad most days of the week. Not sure how much longer I can do this.
    After my running around on Friday, I was pretty much unable to function for the entire weekend!

    My doctor has given me orders (therapy and psychiatrist) appointments that I cannot do because I cannot get to them. That’s another problem to solve.
    My wife and I live in a motorhome, but that’s also another problem to solve. At this time, my wife and I cannot ask for VA housing assistance. I want to, but I have wife problems. Working on it: please pray for us.

    I had a car, but lost it because I couldn’t keep it up (could not maintain it). It got towed.
    Right now, I need to be able to get around without using all of my strength.

    Friday, I wrote an email to Progressive Insurance’s Keys to Progress Program. I don’t have any reference numbers for you. Just wanted you to know that I have started some sort of ball rolling.

    I am close to the Palo Alto, Ca. VA Hospital, but I can’t seem to get there (there is more to it).

    Sincerely,
    David Weekley
    (redacted)

  8. Richard Tetteh    

    Please US president am disability from Ghana and I need your help please help me

  9. Willard Schoeffling    

    I am 80 years old and. Served in the navy from 1955 to 1959 . I am trying to get a job as a greeter at Walmart but have no way to get there . Any help would be a godsend . Thank You

  10. Masoud    

    it’s good news. could you help me, I need to know about this car’s programs.
    thanks.

Comments are closed.