Ray Ciccolo oversees 10 dealerships that handle eight brands in the Boston area and he still gets out regularly to make music.
"One of my favorite activities is singing with the Boston Minstrels," says Ciccolo, 73, who began as a dealer in 1963 by opening a Volvo store in suburban Brighton.
The volunteer Minstrels take their music to minimum-security prisons and homeless shelters, says the tenor, who has been part of the group for 10 years.
"Music is so uplifting," he says.
The Minstrels sing older popular songs and folk tunes and encourage their audiences to sing along.
"We want them to participate," he says. "After two hours of our music, they are smiling."
Ciccolo's Village Automotive Group has its own way of helping the homeless. It adopted a shelter through Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit that matches companies with facilities.
The third Thursday of each month Village Automotive volunteers take gifts, favors and birthday food to their shelter and celebrate with homeless children whose birthdays are in that month.
"I learned more about my employees watching them interact with the children and families than I ever could have on the job," Ciccolo says. "I have gotten to know them as people and am amazed at their various skills and interests."
But mostly it is others who are amazed with Ciccolo, who three years ago opened an orphanage in China.
"There are about 50 children living there," he says.
The orphanage, known as Ciccolo Sunbeam Village, is in the city of Yulin in Guangxi Province. It places disabled children in family homes in China -- six to a home -- and as such provides nurturing and shelter, with an eye toward increasing the likelihood of their being adopted.
"We think being in families will help make the kids more adoptable," Ciccolo says.
The dealer says he had a recent call from a woman in Virginia who had adopted one of the children from his orphanage and wanted to come with her new daughter to Massachusetts to personally thank him. He says the conversation brought him to tears.
But Ciccolo isn't resting on his laurels. In May, he and his wife plan to go to Haiti, where they will visit orphanages that might benefit from direct help rather than through government agencies.
"I have all my shots and I'm taking the last of the pills," he says.
Ciccolo is a kind of hero to some other dealers.
"When we heard him speak at NADA this year about his activities, I thought I'm not doing enough," says Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Jackson, Mich.
"I was sitting with some buddies at the convention and we figured we've gotta step it up," Lutz recalls. "He epitomizes the best kind of dealer service ... and he's really a nice guy."