Recovering substance abuser Lisa Briscoe says having a car allows her to help others through recovery.

"Man, it saved my life," said Briscoe, who received a car through the Advantage AutoWorks program.

The program offers vehicles through a one-year low-cost loan to qualifying graduates of Muskogee's Bridges Out of Poverty, a program for people struggling to get out of poverty.

Bridges Out of Poverty Director Treasure McKenzie called AutoWorks "a game-changer for our graduates."

"Reliable transportation is crucial for a family to achieve stability," McKenzie said. "Depending on friends and public transportation can be a barrier to getting and keeping a job."

Briscoe said she is two years in recovery from substance abuse and seeks to be a peer recovery support specialist.

"One of the things hindering my growth was that I didn't have a vehicle," she said. "With my meetings and back and forth to church."

She said she talked with McKenzie, filled out the paperwork and "got blessed with a car."

"I was bawling that day," Briscoe said. 

Briscoe said she was offered a job in Tahlequah within five months after getting the car.

"There is no way I would have been able to go back and forth," she said.

Advantage AutoWorks founder and director Dan Morris said he learned about Bridges Out of Poverty six or seven years ago. 

"As I got more involved, I noticed that one of the major problems with people in generational poverty is transportation," he said. "In Muskogee, transportation means cars."

He recalled someone donating a car to Bridges Out of Poverty to be sold for $500. 

"It was worth probably $5,000," he said. "We arranged a loan through Mabrey Bank, with Renee Fredrick, and she made a loan for $500 for one of our graduates and we essentially cosigned for the loan. And we awarded the woman this car."

Morris recalled how happy he felt in awarding the car.

"It was the most amazing thing I've ever witnessed," he said. "I've seen people happy, cry and react. It just moved me to the core and I thought, this is what I was meant to do."

Morris said Advantage AutoWorks has awarded 12 cars to Bridges graduates.

"Our goal is to do one a month," he said. "We got slowed down tremendously because of COVID."

He said people who complete the program can submit an application for a car.

"It's on kind of a need basis," he said. "And it's all based on availability of cars."

Typically, donated cars are older high-mileage vehicles but still valuable vehicles that are thoroughly inspected and repaired before being sold to a graduate. 

A partnership with Mabrey Bank provides the recipient with a small loan that is payable over one year, according to a media release. This provides the organization funds for the transfer of the title and the initial insurance on the vehicle.

Briscoe said she made her last $50 payment this month.

"I have really bad credit, of course, because I was in active addiction," she said. "It helps us become accountable. And it helps me be able to buy a future car because it improved my credit score through my $50 payment."

Any leftover money goes into a maintenance fund to help keep the car in working order over the next year, according to a media release. The graduate is expected to use the tools they have learned in class to pay off the loan and keep it insured.

Morris said the program needs cars to offer other future graduates. He said there are three people waiting for a car, but only one available.

"We can give them a full retail value tax deduction," he said. 

You can help

• To donate a car or make a monetary contribution to Advantage AutoWorks, go to its website at https://advantageautoworks.org or call Dan Morris, (918) 686-6211 or Treasure McKenzie, (918) 840-5331.  

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