Auto dealers rev up donations

Published 12:12 am Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two of Suffolk’s biggest car dealers are working separately toward a common goal this holiday season.

Both Duke Automotive and Mike Duman Auto Sales are taking special steps this year to ensure that children around Suffolk have a chance for a merry Christmas. Duke also is participating in an area-wide effort by Chevrolet dealers on behalf of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.

“When our local Chevy dealers’ group decided to partner with the Foodbank, I was excited, but I was also torn, because Toys for Tots was another organization on the list” of approved beneficiaries for a Chevrolet-sponsored philanthropic programs, said Eley Duke III, Vice President of Duke Automotive. “So I decided to call John Woleben with Toys for Tots of Suffolk and tell him we wanted to help.”

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The dealership has collected toys for the Toys for Tots program before, but never on this scale, he said.

Although the dealership has a couple of the traditional collection boxes for toys, the goal is to fill one — or even two — Silverado truck beds with toys to be donated. He has set a similar goal for Foodbank donations.

The Foodbank of Southeast Virginia’s 10 most requested items are peanut butter, Chunky soup, canned meats, canned tuna, canned vegetables, juice, cereal, macaroni and cheese, pasta and pasta sauces. Toys for Tots collects and distributes new and unwrapped toys for children of all ages.

Over at Duman Auto, employees and customers have collected toys in the past for Suffolk’s King’s Kids program, and general manager Frank Jones said Friday the dealership will be accepting donations again this year.

Owner Mike Duman makes donations to dozens of causes each year through the dealership, Jones said, and Christmas represents a time of year when he and the rest of the folks at his dealership feel a special responsibility to do so.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for the people in the community,” Jones said. “We feel like it is not only a responsibility, but an honor to help them out.”

Both dealerships are also working to help build up the fund that provides most of the monetary support for Toys for Tots in Suffolk — the Cheer Fund.

Duman has committed to serving as a collection point for Cheer Fund donations, agreeing to match donations made at the dealership through Christmas Eve, up to a total of $1,000. Separately, but during the same period, the dealership will also make a $100 Cheer Fund donation for every customer who mentions Toys for Tots at the time of purchase, Jones said.

“Every year since 1980, we have made a $500 donation to the Cheer Fund,” he added. This year, Duman wanted to go a bit further.

Duke and its employees have had a similar commitment to the Cheer Fund for years.

“We’ve always given [a] contribution, and we plan to do that again this year,” Eley Duke said.

“I was a pretty fortunate kid,” he explained. “And I would like every other kid to be able to wake up and have a Tonka [truck] or whatever under the tree.”

Donations to the Suffolk News-Herald’s Cheer Fund help pay for toys for Suffolk’s Toys for Tots distribution each year. You can also contribute by sending a check to Cheer Fund, P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439, or by stopping by the Suffolk News-Herald’s offices at 130 S. Saratoga St.