Dealerships dole out big charitable contributions
In a small town, nonprofits and other community organizations are often unable to carry out their function without some public funding and, in some cases, contributions from private businesses.
Glenwood Springs has a business community that is willing to support these types of organizations, and the auto dealers lead the way.
The Glenwood area has seven dealerships providing residents with a large selection of vehicles to fit any need, as well as specialized mechanics to deal with repair needs, but dealers provide the surrounding community with much more than cars.
Many of the auto dealers recycle a significant portion of their revenue back into the community in the form of donations, sponsorships and charitable giving.
Bighorn Toyota alone contributes to more than 50 organizations in the area.
Kathleen Wanatowicz is on the Alpine Legal Services nonprofit board. After receiving a donation from Bighorn Toyota for its inaugural golf classic hosted on June 3, Wanatowicz dug deeper into the dealership’s giving history and learned that it had given back more than $200,000 a year in donations.
“They are a local car dealership, passed down for generations,” Wanatowicz said. “It’s hard to maintain a dealership in today’s economic climate, so the extent of their giving is incredible.”
High Country Honda, which won the gold medal in Post Independent’s Locals’ Choice this year, has contributed to nine different organizations and causes so far this year alone.
David McDavid, owner of High Country Honda, believes when the businesses and the community work together, both of them benefit.
“Any business in a tight knit community like Glenwood has to have a symbiotic relationship with the community,” McDavid said. “I can’t imagine having a business where you don’t give back.”
With so many causes and organizations relying on private funding, McDavid has considerations to make when deciding who to support.
“There is no way a single business can support all of them,” McDavid said.
“I look for organizations that have touched my life in some manner. I look at how many people does it support? How much of my funds are going to the people? Will it get to the people?”
Steve Nilsson of Glenwood Ford has a similar philosophy.
“We want to support everyone that asks,” Nilsson said. “But we also want to be sure that our support gets back to the community. The community supports us, and if we aren’t willing to give back, then we kind of are missing the boat.”
Glenwood Ford has contributed to more than 75 organizations and individuals with monetary support in the past. Its largest contributions go to Glenwood Springs High School where, in addition to supporting the athletic program, the dealership sponsors a program that gives a car to a student who meets certain academic specifications. Since it started this program both winners have utilized their cars for college transportation.
All the auto dealers echo the same sentiment. Namely, it is their responsibility to support the local community.
“It’s not because it’s good for business,” said Carroll Winkler of Glenwood Subaru, “but because it’s the right thing to do. We are in a position to give back and help, to give back to the community as a whole.”
And these three dealers are not the only ones to contribute. In fact, they will be the first to tell you the extent to which all of the auto dealers in the area give back to the community.
Berthod Motors has a multitude of repeating annual donations to causes all across the area from Rifle to Aspen. Sponsoring golf events, service clubs, schools and nonprofits, Berthod contributes to a wide range of causes that make a difference on both a local and national scale.
Mountain Chevrolet has contributed to more than 40 organizations in the past three years. But according to Michael Payne of Mountain Chevy, auto dealers give so much more than what is visible to the public through private contributions.
“When new taxes for school bond issues are voted on and sold to the residential property tax payers as only increasing each households tax bill by about $25 to $35 per year,” Payne explained, “that same tax increase might affect car dealers and commercial property owners an additional $10,000 plus, per year.”
In this way, auto dealers make a significant, and largely unseen, contribution to vital local public services. But according to McDavid, supporting the community involves much more.
“It’s not just about giving money,” McDavid said. “Sometimes just giving your time to a cause can mean a lot.”
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Garfield County is seeking to qualify its four west-end communities for Colorado’s Rural Jump Start program, providing tax breaks for new businesses.