Vehicles for Change Team Members
Martin started Vehicles for Change (VFC) in April 1999 with $30,000 in personal funds invested by senior management of Precision CertiPro Warehouse, an auto parts distributor. Martin has directed an expansion that included Maryland, most of Virginia, Washington DC and Detroit, Michigan.
VFC was selected as a “best practice” organization in a national study completed by the “National Economic Development and Law Center” and generally recognized as one of the premiere low income car ownership program in the country.
In 2005 Martin started Freedom Wheels, a retail used-car business that is a subsidiary of VFC. He was selected as the University of Baltimore 2007 Social Entrepreneur of the Year and the Baltimore Visitors and Convention Bureaus “Sales Person of the Year” award. In 2011, Martin was recognized as an “Influential Marylander” by the Daily Record and Vehicles for Change received the MassMutual Citizenship Award for its private public partnership developed with Precision Tune Auto Care. Martin co-authored a book on Social Enterprise titled Effective Social Enterprise: Practical Advice and Best Practices from Leaders in the Field and serves on the Baltimore Workforce Investment Board and the local Board of the Social Enterprise Alliance.
Melissa McKenna has managed all operations related to VFC's Richmond, VA location for the past 10 years. She brings a wide range of experience to VFC, having managed and owned numerous small businesses over the last 30 years (including wood and gas stove stores, a bicycle store and a screen printing machine manufacturer). Melissa is also skilled auto mechanic and has rebuilt engines, replaced transmissions and made repairs on a wide variety of vehicles, including her very own school bus. She is a licensed VA car dealer.
Jen Harrington joined Vehicles for Change as marketing director in 2012 and has recently been promoted to Associate Director of Donations Processing. Prior to joining VFC, Jen worked in publishing at Wolters Kluwer Health and in legal marketing at Chapman and Cutler LLP, a financial-services law firm based in Chicago. She holds an M.A. in Writing from DePaul University, and is currently active in various charitable organizations.
Ben Oaks joined Vehicles for Change as Associate Director of Financial Operations in 2015. Previously, Ben worked in the internet startup scene in New York City where he founded two organizations, MuCash and DailyGiver. He holds an MBA from Cornell University and a Bachelor's degree in physics from Colgate University. In addition to his roles with VFC, Ben is active in the philanthropic scene where he serves on the Boards of Directors of two charitable organizations.
Phil Holmes was coerced from his retirement from Goodwill of the Chesapeake to build the Academy of Automotive Careers. Phil has had an extensive career in the nonprofit world, much of it as the Executive Director of several organizations serving less fortunate individuals, including children and those with disabilities. Prior to his retirement, Phil served as the Vice President of Public Policy and Development. Phil serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Baltimore City Drug Courts Foundation and on the board of the Baltimore City Community College Foundation. He now brings his extensive experience in workforce development to the Academy of Automotive Careers.
Teresa has been with VFC for 6 years with over 9 years experience in the non-profit industry; working previously with Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake with accounts receivable and retail management. In 2000, Teresa started her career at Baltimore City Public Schools system in the Individualized Education Program for students with special needs. She studied business management and is also well versed in automotive repairs, parts and maintenance. She brings her own automotive repair experience and knowledge gained while working alongside mechanics in her own family. She previously held the position of service writer and Shop Manager for Vehicles for Change in 2013. Having succeeded in many roles with VFC from accounting and award coordinator to service manager and licensed car saleswoman, Teresa quickly gained vast knowledge of the VFC program operations from start to finish. Teresa is the Director of Operations for our first VFC expansion project in Detroit, MI.
Eric Leonard joined Vehicles for Change as Director of Detail Training and Wholesale in June 2014. Previously, Eric worked at Dealergoodies, an auto supplies dealer for 10 years as a salesman and trainer, where he trained detailers and sold a plethora of car care products. In addition to his roles at VFC, Eric has worked for Meguiar’s Car Care Products for the past 12 years as a certified trainer. Prior to breaking into the detailing and automotive industry, Eric served as a proud member of the United States Marine Corps.
Nikki Zaahir- Director of Full Circle Service Center and Reentry Automotive Internship Opportunities
Nikki Zaahir joined Vehicles for Change as Director of Full Circler Service Center and Reentry Automotive Internship Opportunities in 2015. Previously, Nikki worked as a Quality Management Officer for the National Security Agency and a Corporate Representative Department Manager at America Works. In her role at America Works, she began working with ex-offenders as well as welfare-to-work clientele to facilitate their transferable life skills and assist them in maintaining employment. Nikki has had a passion for the prison reentry industry and has worked faithfully to further the opportunities for ex-offenders for almost 10 years.