Martin Schwartz built his company, he says, on the “Field of Dreams” model.
In the popular 1989 Kevin Costner movie of the same name, Costner’s character built a baseball field on his Iowa farm, confident, based on the eerie voices from his cornfield, that it would be a success — and it was.
In Schwartz’s case, he launched his Halethorpe-based company, Vehicles for Change, in 1999. He was confident that if he built a “top-notch organization we would draw the funds necessary to sustain the organization.”
He was right. His company, which collects donated vehicles and gives them to local families struggling to find affordable transportation, has also been a success, giving away nearly 7,000 cars since its founding. Three-quarters of the recipients, according to the company, have gotten better jobs and/or increased their earnings.
“VFC is a unique organization,” Schwartz said. “We are the only organization that addresses generational poverty and recidivism the way we do, while filling a huge void in the auto industry. We are building partners that will assist us in launching 20 new locations in the next five years.”
A successful nonprofit, Schwartz said, needs a variety of revenue streams, which his has. The company’s most recent innovation, he said is developing a virtual reality auto mechanic training module, which will allow schools, prisons, other nonprofits and the auto retail industry to house a mechanic training program at a fraction of the cost of a live model.
“It will allow VFC to expand our program nationally at a significantly reduced cost,” he said.
Before starting Vehicles for Change, Schwartz held a variety of jobs, including an auditor for the state of Maryland, controller at Cardinal Gibbons High School, and associate athletic director at Catonsville Community College and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.