One of the biggest charitable contributions occurred early in 2015, when owner Gregg Kunes bought a vacant 6,000-square-foot medical building in Elkhorn, Wis., for $800,000. He eventually deeded the property to the Open Arms Free Clinic, which serves low-income and underserved residents of Walworth County, Myers said. That allowed the group to focus on its mission without worrying about rent or a mortgage.
"The impact on our clinic has been tremendous," said Sara Nichols, executive director of the group, which used to operate in a 1,800-square-foot space in a strip mall. "This gift gave us the financial means to expand our direct-patient care — providing dental, mental health and vision services that we otherwise wouldn't be able to offer."
Kunes established the Christian-based company's philanthropic mindset in 1996, when he bought his first store: Kunes Country Ford-Lincoln of Delavan in Delavan, Wis. That store is a 2017 honoree, along with Kunes Country Chevrolet-Cadillac of Delavan and Kunes Country Chevrolet-Buick-GMC of Elkhorn, both of Wisconsin, and Kunes Country Auto Group of Oregon, Kunes Country Chevrolet of Morrison, Kunes Country Ford-Lincoln of Sterling and Kunes Country Ford of Antioch, all of Illinois.
"Gregg has been doing this since day one," Myers said. "And as we add more stores, they also enter the fold." Why? Myers points to the company's mission statement, which talks about delivering exceptional customer service as well as serving its dealerships' communities. "We take care of our community," it states. "We want the cities and towns that we live and work in to be better because we're a part of them."
When dealerships hear about worthy causes, they submit funding requests to Kunes. Kunes and his family decide which groups receive money. "Since our 14 dealerships are spread across 300 miles, local desires are very much taken into account," Myers said. "We try to spread the giving throughout the communities where we're located."