Dealers continue charity amid tough times

I talk to dozens of U.S. auto dealers on my beat weekly. I know many of them contribute time and money to their communities annually.

In fact, when General Motors Co. terminated thousands of U.S. dealerships while in federal bankruptcy court, dealers argued their local community would suffer because many dealers sponsored Little League teams and various local charities.

I recently experienced firsthand the impact that auto dealerships have on their communities. And what struck me is that this charity continued even during what’s been two of the worst years in recent automotive history.

I was in San Diego on assignment. I ended up at a facility called Lions, Tigers & Bears to do some off-road vehicle testing.

Lions, Tigers & Bears is a nonprofit rescue facility. It provides a safe haven for unwanted and abused exotic cats and bears in the area. Many of these animals outgrew the role of “pet.” Some were terribly abused -- two tigers were made to live in a small, unlit room for five years. Now they roam a large open-air sanctuary.

It costs about $200 a week to feed the big cats, one volunteer told me. The facility still needs to raise $200,000 to build a permanent area for the bear.

And as I left, I saw a banner listing some of its sponsors.

On it was the name of a local Ford dealership.