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Working to get wheels for the jobless
by Sarah Cooper
Jun 17, 2010 | 1185 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Wheels for Work will match donated cars with people in need of transportation for employment, said Bret Tippin, president of the nonprofit group.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Wheels for Work will match donated cars with people in need of transportation for employment, said Bret Tippin, president of the nonprofit group.
SPARKS — Bret Tippin was grabbing a bite to eat after work one day when the playful banter of two nearby women caught his ear.

One of the women, a longtime member of Nevada’s lengthy unemployment line, was laughing about how she had just heard back about a job at the Amazon warehouse in Fernley. Too bad she didn’t have a car.

“They joked about putting up a tent halfway between here and there, starting a caravan. … I was just in stitches,” Tippin said of their playful approach to a dismal situation.

However, after the laughter, the topic turned serious for the MBA-holding, sports book ticket writer Tippin. So, he started a nonprofit called Wheels for Work. The charity aims to put the unemployed and transportation-challenged behind the wheels of their own cars for better chances at jobs.

“Look at all the research,” Tippin said, pointing to his website,

A 2004 study by the Cascade Policy Institute states that car ownership improved the likelihood of being employed by 80 percent and its effect on average weekly wages was about $275.

In addition, a 2001 study of current and former welfare recipients in New Jersey found that transportation to and from work was cited as a problem for more than one-fourth of the employed families surveyed.

“The unemployment rate for people who don’t have a car is 20 percent higher across the board,” Tippin said.

To address the problem, the Sparks local has asked area used car dealerships to donate the cars that they just can’t sell.

“It’s a win-win,” Tippin said. “They get the tax write-off and we get a car.”

About three dealerships have agreed to the deal as of Thursday.

The program, which Tippin hopes to have fully funded in about three to four months, would kick off with a job fair. Each employer at the fair, according to Tippin, would have to promise to hire for at least one job attendee in order to participate.

Before coming to the fair, the unemployed of northern Nevada would put in their name for one of the cars. After background checks by Tippin and the local police, the car would be theirs to go job hunting in, and given to them after they hunted for employment at the fair. The first quarter’s insurance and initial registration would even be paid.

Tippin hopes to have 50 cars ready to roll by the time of the job fair.

However, Tippin was careful to say that the local jobless interested in getting behind the wheel would not be given a free ride.

“We want to see that they are really trying,” he said.

All candidates must meet all of Tippin’s qualifications in order to be considered for assistance through Wheels for Work:

• Applicants must be able to work, meaning no disabilities.

• Applicants must be insurable.

• Applicants must not have access to a working vehicle. If an applicant currently owns a non-functioning vehicle, they must be able to prove they have insufficient money to pay for necessary repairs.

• Applicants cannot have a DUI or a vehicular felony on their record.

• Applicants must be a citizen of the United States or have a valid work visa or permit.

The philanthropic realist also said that the cars would not be considered top of the line.

“You are not getting a luxury car,” Tippin said. “You are getting a car that will get you from here to there.”

To avoid getting, or giving, a lemon, Tippin said each car will be inspected by a certified mechanic before any would-be worker gets behind the wheel.

After the initial registration and insurance payment, the driver is on their own for future expenses.

“The car is theirs,” Tippin said, operating off the mentality that the worker would be able to pay for their car’s costs after a period of several months.

The drivers aren’t the only ones looking for money. Tippin hopes to host a wine tasting and golf tournament in the coming months to help finance his endeavor, which is currently being paid for out of his casino worker’s personal paycheck. Donations will go to the cars, not to himself.

He added that any donations are welcome.

What keeps the man giving is his passion for battling unemployment.

“I just got tired of everybody losing their jobs,” he said. “I was in commercial real estate for a while and I watched that side, watching people lose their jobs.”

He added that his mother, a registered nurse, was also a victim of the recession. She lost her job to company cutbacks and has not been able to find another one.

Following the real estate crash, Tippin also found himself on the state’s unemployment rolls for about five months.

“If you get unemployment going in the right direction everything else goes up,” he said. “My mission statement would be to get the unemployment rate down and get people driving and working again.”

In the meantime, as he waits for the state’s unemployment to shrink at his hands, Tippin will commute himself from Sparks to his job at the Gold Ranch in Verdi, a more than 14-mile trip.
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