RICHMOND, Va. -- Every weekday, Sonata Parks gives Arthur Harris a ride to and from his overnight job at Walmart.
"I have to get to work, I have to pay bills, which I was doing before," Harris said. "It takes time on public transportation, and with Uber or Lyft, it takes money."
Parks, his driver, is a retired U.S. Postal Service employee, now working for Community Transportation.
"He has to have some form of transportation," Parks said. "The bus doesn't run out his way. It stops right at the city's edge."
Their route is one of about 500 that happen across Central Virginia each week through Community Transporation.
The group's all-women team known as the "Divas," as well as their team mascot, a small puppy named Mica, sport their signature pearls as they take passengers to and from their jobs.
Myra Griffin started the group with her husband, after working in the staffing industry for years.
About a year ago, Griffin realized there was a hole in her industry.
"There's no need of sending someone to work, to giving them a job. I can do that every day of the week, and I know they can't simply get there," Griffin said. "It's just setting them up for failure."
Thanks to a grant from the City of Richmond, the group has been able to offer free rides to families who qualify or receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits.
Over the last year, Griffin said the number of people who've relied on Community Transportation for a free lift outside of Richmond has reached a new level.
"With the buses right now, being free I think until 2026, you can ride the buses for free, but the buses only go in certain areas, so we're trying to make sure that we get people to where people really need to get to work to, and most of the jobs are off the bus line, so, you have to go to where you have to go," Griffin said.
The group has worked in partnership with Richmond's Department of Public Works Office of Equitable Transit and Mobility to get grant money to offer free or low-cost rides for families.
The group will soon be in Petersburg, hosting a job fair to help individuals find work and get reliable transportation. The job fair is expected to take place in October.
In the meantime, Griffin's group also offers job placement opportunities, hoping one day their clients will no longer need their services.
"We've had people that have actually come in that had no job, we found them work, we found them a car," Griffin said. "If one is off my van, then there's 10 in line, so there's always going to be transportation that's needed, but it makes me feel so much better, when someone says, 'Mrs. Griffin, I finally got a car.' That makes me feel really good."
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