Dealers turn up the giving for the holidays

ATLANTA -- Many dealers and their employees give back to their communities all year long. But the end-of-the-year holiday season brings a surge in activity.

For example, New England Acura dealers recently pledged to raise $500,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital. Priority Automotive Group in Chesapeake, Va., is spending $20,000 this holiday season to support pet adoptions from local shelters. Many retailers lead toy drives and fund holiday meal baskets.

AutoNation’s Mitch McGuire is in his 21st year of organizing Christmas parties for underprivileged children. It started with a single party for 25 kids with the St. Vincent de Paul Society in South Bend, Ind., after he graduated from college. The parties got bigger when he went to work at AutoNation’s Chicago dealerships in 1998. Today, McGuire, 43, puts together parties for children in three states and raises enough money to buy gifts for 2,200 kids.

For McGuire, December is a whirlwind of shopping parties, wrapping parties and, finally, Christmas parties at Boys and Girls Clubs in Chicago, Indianapolis and Atlanta. His final parties for this season are this weekend in Atlanta, where he now works as a regional vice president of finance for AutoNation.

The effort costs about $30,000, and McGuire pays for about 60 percent out of his pocket. He started it because he wanted to do something constructive during the holidays. He credits his friends, family and co-workers for helping make it happen. His twin brother plays Santa Claus at all the parties.

Said McGuire: “It’s the best thing that we as a group, my family and friends, do all year.”

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