Wheels to Work: A NEW Program in Newaygo County!
Interview with Debbi Coleman from the Hope Network.
Hello Debbi, what is Wheels to Work?
Reliable transportation can be a barrier for people to get to work. Wheels to Work is a transportation program created to fit that need. The Hope Network, a nonprofit organization based in Kent County, employs, insures and trains the drivers. The Hope Network owns our fleet of vehicles. June of 2016 was the official launch, but we were working on the program before that.
We now have 64 businesses on board in multiple communities. Many of these businesses are temporary employment agencies, so we have an additional 25 businesses or so that we go to. Pre-pandemic, we had 3000 rides per month. During the pandemic, we continued to transport essential workers and pivoted to meal delivery so we did not have to lay off all of our drivers.
How does Wheels to Work benefit employers?
Most of the companies who use Wheels to Work offer it as part of their benefit package. The employers realize that once employees use the program, they get to work on time. Absenteeism drops and there is more productivity. Some employers see less turnover. It is a great recruiting tool as well. It gives companies one more tool to attract employees.
How does Wheels to Work benefit employees?
Employees don’t have to drive, they don’t have to worry if their car is working or if they can afford their insurance payment. A few people participate because they want to lower their carbon footprint. Some employees dislike driving in the winter and use the program seasonally. We have a number of disabled employees who use Wheels to Work because they cannot drive. All of our vehicles are handicapped accessible. There are many people able and willing to work who cannot drive.
Is the program the same for every business?
I work with each business to customize the program for them. For example, the employer controls how many miles away from their business we may go and if we use a hub pick-up model or curb-to-curb service. We design the program with each employer to meet their needs. Since I work with dozens of employers, we have established a list of best practices that work for different situations.
We bill the employer a monthly amount based on the services they actually use. Some employers charge the employees who use the service per ride and others charge the employees a monthly charge. Most companies share the cost of Wheels to Work with their employees. A few companies pay the full amount with no cost to their employees.
The more companies that come on board, the lower the cost is for each company. This is because we can pick up more people in an area going to multiple businesses. We share the cost.
What is happening with Wheels to Work in Newaygo County?
Michigan Produce Haulers (MPH) is the first company in Newaygo County to get started. Today is their first route! They have had issues with wanting to hire people who didn’t have vehicles and this has allowed them to get past that barrier. Once we have more businesses, we will be hiring local drivers (our current driver is from Muskegon) and we will have an office based in the community. We have another business in Newaygo County that is planning to get started once people don’t have to work remotely. We have found that once we have one or two businesses started in a community, the word spreads and more want to take part.
Wheels to work is specialized, affordable and collaborative. Transportation is a big need in Newaygo County and we couldn't make it on our own. We want to thank our many partners, like the Fremont Area Community Foundation, who have helped us to get this new program rolling.
If your organization or business would like information about Wheels to Work, contact Debbi Coleman, Business Development Transportation, at 616-248-5100.
Visit Wheels to Work to find a Frequently Asked Questions page, a list of employers using the program, and more.
The Hope Network are advocates for people who suffer from physical, mental, and social barriers that impact their daily life. With experts across Michigan, we help them overcome, so they can live their best life possible. n live their best life possible.