After sales were halted March 24, the dealership continued to operate its service drive, deemed essential under the governor's executive order.
"But honestly, it got too scary," McDonald said. "People were coming in not for essential services — for silly things. They weren't abiding by the new rules."
Customers weren't staying in their cars. Some people were getting too close to each other, not the recommended 6 feet of distance to avoid spreading the contagion. Kids were running around the store. McDonald felt that by staying open she was doing more harm than good. She did not want to expose employees or customers to the virus.
So on March 27, Livonia Chrysler-Jeep completely shut down again. The dealership put most of its approximately 45 employees on unpaid furloughs and has since been in frequent communication with all of them via group emails and texts.
Meanwhile, McDonald looked for a place where she could donate blood because she has the highly sought, universal O-negative type.
"Everywhere I called was either closed or they didn't have any openings," she said.
Through an employee's family member, she got in touch with Versiti Blood Center of Michigan. She said she had an auto dealership with an entire showroom going unused. Thinking out loud, she offered the dealership as a place to do a blood drive. The contact at Versiti checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and soon called McDonald with the news that a dealership-based operation was approved for five blood drives.
Two blood drives took place the week of March 30 and three more were scheduled for last week.
To pull it off, McDonald and her staff removed all the cars and trucks from the showroom. They took seat covers, typically used for customers' vehicles, and put them over all the chairs in the showroom, spacing them 6 feet apart. They made sure everything was again disinfected and thoroughly cleaned.
She had tech personnel set up a large ad on the dealership's website about the blood drives. Visitors to the page could click a button to schedule a donation, similar to the way customers might schedule a service appointment.
Versiti then set up all of its equipment. On the first two days, the blood drive had about 75 donors, with McDonald being the first.
It was something she could not have imagined taking place just a month earlier.
"I don't know what the lesson is right now, but we're all in this together," she said. "We have to work together and lean on each other when we can."
Editor's note: McDonald's daughter is an intern at Automotive News.