To a mother of three who works part-time and attends college on a full-time basis, a reliable vehicle is crucial.

So when Katrina Smith’s Dodge Caravan hit 260,000-plus miles and repair bills were piling up, it was time to figure out a way to get to work and classes (and get her children to where they needed to go) without breaking the bank.

In stepped the Lancaster County Council of Churches and its Wheels to Work program, which sells reliable vehicles at discounted prices to people in need. With the group’s help, Smith now has a reliable 1996 Toyota Camry with half the mileage of her Caravan.

(Pictured at right: Katrina Smith with daughters McKenna and Caitlin, in front of the Toyota provided by Wheels to Work.)

The Council of Churches is one of many organizations that have benefitted from the $2 million donated annually to nonprofit groups by the PPL Foundation to support education programs and opportunities and to help build sustainable communities.

“You have all of these things to do and when you don’t have a car, it’s a constant worry,” said Smith, who attends Harrisburg Community College and works there as a workforce development recruiter. “Now I wake up in the morning and know I can go anywhere and do anything.”

Smith is the type of success story that the Council of Churches is hoping to create. Wheels to Work is one of multiple programs the organization offers at its Lancaster headquarters. The group also gives out about 640,000 pounds of food annually to the needy and provides clothing and emergency shelter to those in need.

The Wheels to Work program does 15 to 17 vehicle transactions annually, selling cars to people who otherwise would have to walk or take public transit. The typically high-mileage vehicles, which are donated or sold to the organization, are normally sold for about $1,000 to $1,500 after getting all of the repairs needed to be deemed mechanically sound.

“The work that the Council of Churches does for the Lancaster community is amazing,” said Jess Baker, a regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities. “They’re touching the lives of thousands of people every year and we’re happy to be helping to make that happen.”

Gail Rittenhouse, executive director of the Lancaster County Council of Churches, said the transportation needs in the city are significant.  She added that the program benefits employers as much as it does the people who get the vehicles, because those who receive cars can assure their workplace that they can get to and from work on time. The organization says that 63 percent of people who live in Lancaster County do not have reliable transportation.

Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation of a vehicle should contact Becky Saner at 717-690-8046 or email w2w@lcchurches.org. For more information on the Lancaster County Council of Churches, visit the organization’s website.