ROANOKE, Va. (11/16/10)—Freedom First FCU in Roanoke, Va., used an innovation grant to partner with three agencies to provide affordable transportation to low-income people. Access to transportation determines where a family a lives, where its children go to school, and what jobs family members hold. Estimates say that families can increase their income by as much as 25% with access to reliable transportation. Freedom First FCU found that one in 12 households in its region were unable to reach their maximum potential because they lacked reliable transportation. With a $25,000 innovation grant this year from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), Freedom First FCU partnered with Total Action Against Poverty, New River Community Action and Enterprise Car Sales to implement the Responsible Rides Auto Loan Program to help provide affordable and dependable transportation to low-income individuals. “Freedom First FCU’s program is meeting a tremendous need in their community,” said Tom Candell NCUF deputy director, chief operating officer/chief financial officer. “It’s also a great example of partnership and ‘people helping people.’ This is one of the many ways that NCUF Innovation Grants are helping family members achieve their goals.” Loan rates for the program are 9.9% with a 60-month term that covers costs and increased risks. Pre-approved applicants are required to participate in financial education and car care maintenance classes. Qualified participants then work with the credit union to purchase vehicles for around $9,000 from Enterprise Car Sales, which provides cars below blue book value to insure equity in each deal. Responsible Auto Loan Program partners hope to make available 100 automobiles within the next two years. As of October, 42 loans had been approved--a 43% approval rate on applications that had little hope for approval just a year ago. NCUF Innovation Grants are made possible by supporters of the foundation and Community Investment Fund, a system of investments that help credit unions earn dividends while donating to national and state community development programs.