Auto dealerships rev up cheer

Published 8:07 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sandy O’Dell and David Jernigan of Starr Motors show off some of the toys collected in a 2013 Jeep Wrangler on the dealership’s showroom on Friday.

Suffolk’s car dealerships can be counted on to sell cars year-around.

But when it comes to supporting Toys for Tots and the Cheer Fund, they seem eager to shift their focus.

For the second year, Duke Automotive has donated a cargo van for Suffolk Toys for Tots coordinator John Woleben to use while picking up toys from collection points. Local business Grafik Trenz donated the Toys for Tots logos on the sides of the van.

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Duke Vice President Eley Duke said he got the idea when Woleben came to pick up toys two years ago with a small passenger minivan donated by another dealer outside the city.

“I told him, ‘Next year you come see me,’” Duke said. “He was super excited.”

The dealership also collects toys from the public each year, filling the back of a pickup truck in its showroom.

“Last year we collected 568 toys,” Duke said. “We’re going to up the ante this year.”

In addition to supporting Toys for Tots, Duke Automotive also makes donations to the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund each year. The Cheer Fund collects donations and turns them over to Toys for Tots to buy toys.

Other dealerships also are involved in Toys for Tots.

“We’re just getting started, but we’ve collected close to 500 toys,” said David Jernigan, a sales consultant for Starr Motors. “We had great success last year — we filled up a pickup truck two times over.”

The dealership is donating $5 for every survey someone completes after a test drive through Christmas Eve. In addition, Chrysler is giving $100 to Toys for Tots for every new Town & Country, Grand Caravan and Journey sold through December. Starr Motors will match that with an additional $100 donation to the local Toys for Tots.

“The sales staff is trying to promote people driving the vehicles just for the kids,” Duke said. “We have a good time with it.”

In addition to the monetary donations, Starr Motors also is collecting toys, filling the back of a 2013 Jeep Wrangler. When they’re done with that, they will move on to a minivan, Jernigan said.

At Mike Duman Auto Sales, the staff makes an annual contribution to the Cheer Fund, the Suffolk News-Herald’s fund drive to raise money to support Suffolk’s Toys for Tots, Duman said.

To make your own contribution to the Cheer Fund, mail a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23434 or bring it by our office from Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.