December 10, 2023

Trendsetters - Non-profits

Susan Jacobs, Kim L. Cavendish, Christina DePaul

Mike Vogel | 8/1/2010

Susan Jacobs
Wheels of Success
Founder / Tampa

Her ride:
A 2001 Infiniti with 130,000 miles and its second engine and transmission. "It gets me to where I need to go, and that’s the purpose of a car."

Quote: "When you see the change it makes, you feel terrific."

[Photo: Michael Heape]
Running a staffing agency, Susan Jacobs encountered a recurring problem in placing people in low-wage jobs in the clerical and hospitality fields. Bus schedules didn’t work out, and if prospects did have a car, they lacked one with the stamina for a daily commute.

"This piece wasn’t being addressed," says Jacobs. To address it, in 2003 she founded Wheels of Success, a Tampa non-profit that puts needy working people in a functional car. It gives away about 70 cars a year and helps with repairs and services on another 70. The cars, usually donated by individuals, are good enough to last their new owners at least a year. "This isn’t your dream car, but hopefully it’s going to get you to your dreams," Jacobs tells the recipients.

Jacobs knows from experience. Decades ago, she left an abusive relationship and found herself temporarily without transport. At Wheels, half of her applicants are domestic violence victims. Recipients donate three hours of service a month in clerical work at Wheels, which keeps overhead low, and pay a small percentage of their income, on average $40 to $50 a month toward repair of the vehicle, to help the organization.

Jacobs gets enough vehicles to supply only one in five qualified applicants. The federal cash-for-clunkers program hurt by reducing the number of functional vehicles available for Jacobs’ clientele. A woman who enjoys networking, Jacobs, 60, is always prospecting for car donors and support. "If I’m eating out at a restaurant, they get a (business) card along with a tip."


Fundraising as a Science

Kim L. Cavendish
Museum of Discovery and Science
President / CEO
Fort Lauderdale
In 14 years in Fort Lauderdale, Kim Cavendish took the Museum of Discovery and Science from a small institution to a $32-million science center with an IMAX theater. She left in 1995 to lead financial turnarounds at the Virginia Air & Space Center and later at the Orlando Science Center. She returned to the Fort Lauderdale museum in 2002 as president and CEO. Thanks to a $25-million campaign funded by, among others, AutoNation, Bank of America and JM Family Enterprises, the museum in May broke ground on an expansion that will double its public space. It’s adding a simulated Everglades trip, a two-story otter habitat and a storm center among other features.


Arts Aid

Christina DePaul, CEO of Miami-based YoungArts, this year launched a regional laboratory program to help area high schoolers aspiring to a career in the arts. Opportunities for participants in the new program, called YoungArts Miami, include monthly workshops, career guidance, master classes and assistance in applying for the national YoungArts program, from which the nation’s 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts are chosen. DePaul, former dean of the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, majored in art as a Carnegie Mellon undergrad in her native Pennsylvania and later was an artist-in-residence there. Her work is displayed at the White House, the Cleveland Museum and other museums and galleries.

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