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A dealer, Ally and Operation Homefront

There are cynics who might say some businesses donate to charity for publicity and to increase sales.

Maybe. But so what?

Their donations still help people. And many businesspeople make contributions because their hearts are in the right place.

Just ask Liz Fichtel, the director of morale services for Operation Homefront Georgia. She says Operation Homefront could not assist financially strapped military families without help from businesses.

On July 28, she got that help from Jay Automotive Group and lender Ally Financial.

The Columbus, Ga., dealership donated the use of its Mazda location and served refreshments. Ally donated $10,000 to Operation Homefront Georgia to purchase backpacks and school supplies to give to 100 children of needy military families from nearby Fort Benning.

Last year, Georgia dealer Mike Bowsher, who owns Carl Black Buick-GMC in suburban Atlanta, partnered with Ally, Operation Homefront Georgia and the National Charity League Northeast Atlanta to donate 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies for children of area military personnel.

Bowsher said he did it as a duty to give back, but he also knew those folks who showed up would probably remember the event when it's time to buy a car.

Ally has partnered with Operation Homefront three times, said Steve Kinkade, an Ally spokesman. The donations help to "strengthen our partnerships with dealers and the charitable partnerships that are important to them. And it increases our recognition in the community as well," he says.

Whatever the reason, Fichtel is grateful.

"These military families we assist range from privates to sergeants, so the lower ranking ones really need assistance; they make like $15,000 a year. It's bad," Fichtel says. "Without these corporate sponsors, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing."

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