AUTOMOBILE DEALERS DONATE VAN TO HELP TRANSPORT CHILDREN.
For the past two years, Newbury Park Track Club coach Tamara Rohman has struggled to transport her runners to practice on time.
``I could give a few of the kids a ride over to the track, but there was no way I could get all the kids in my little car,'' said Rohman, who lives in Many Mansions' Shadow Hills housing complex and who also coaches dozens of low-income kids around the city.
On Monday, Rohman's problem was solved when the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall Dealers Association presented the nonprofit Many Mansions agency with a 15-passenger van to transport kids living in low-income housing units.
``Many low-income parents work all day long and just can't take off to pick up their kids from school and drive them to soccer or track practice or karate class,'' said Rohman, a stay-at-home mom and mother of four. ``This van will open up a door to a whole set of opportunities.''
Despite the rainy weather, about a dozen kids joined Many Mansions representatives in celebrating their new 1997 Ford van Monday afternoon, when they picked it up from the Westoaks Chrysler-Dodge dealership.
With more than 300 kids living in the organization's low-income housing facilities, the van is the first in a fleet the agency has been working to secure to help transport small groups to after-school tutoring sessions, sports practices, the public library and the Teen Center during the week.
``Our main challenge has been to make sure our children have the same opportunities as other kids so they can grow and excel in ways they can feel good about themselves,'' said Lisa Safaeinili, director of residence services for Many Mansions. ``This van will help us immensely.''
For more than a year, Safaeinili worked to put together proposals for grants and donations to help buy a van. Having secured one, she said the challenge now is to find the money to pay for maintenance and gas, which could run more than $3,500 each year.
The agency will ask families to donate a quarter for each ride, but Safaeinili said she has already begun writing more requests for grants to cover the bulk of the cost.
``We have had so many members of the community donate their time to provide extracurricular activities for the kids: ice skating, sports events, Christmas programs,'' she said. ``This at least is a start in making sure they can get to those programs.''
The 13 members of the dealers association shared the cost of the $20,000 van.
``We like to be involved in local charities, and this time we thought we could donate something these kids could really use,'' said Chris Shaver, manager of a member dealership.