Program putting people in reliable cars turns 5

Posted May 04, 2010, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:44 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Julia Dunbar of Bucksport got more than just lunch Tuesday when she attended a celebration at the Washington Hancock Community Agency’s offices on Bucksport Road.

She got a free minivan, too.

The celebration was in honor of the fifth anniversary of WHCA’s Helping Hands Garage program, which assists income-eligible people in the two-county area to finance and purchase reliable vehicles they can use to get to and from their jobs or medical appointments.

Since the program started in 2005, it has helped find vehicles for more than 100 families and individual owners, according to WHCA officials. Carpenters, laborers, secretaries, nursing assistants, grocery store clerks, restaurant workers, delivery people and veterinary assistants all are among those who have found reliable cars through the program, WHCA officials said in a release.

Dunbar works in an Ellsworth optometrist’s office. Standing next to the 2002 Chevrolet Venture minivan that she won in Tuesday’s drawing, she said she had borrowed her most recent vehicle from her mother, but it failed inspection.

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“It makes me feel like my luck has changed,” Dunbar said.

Before the drawing, WHCA’s Linda Belfiore said that though WHCA clients normally have to buy the cars they receive, Tuesday’s drawing winner would be an exception.

“This will be a true win,” Belfiore said. “We hope every time they see someone they will tell them about our program.”

The van was donated by Darling’s Auto Mall in Ellsworth.

More information about the program is available by calling WHCA at 667-4763 or visit