“When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college.” –Unknown
Listening to Mike McCarthy, owner of McCarthy’s Dealership in San Luis Obispo, talk about the many ways his dealership has gifted families and youth over the years is a heartwarming and humbling experience. While heavily involved in multiple charitable endeavors, when Mike talks about his involvement, he does so with such a “matter-of-factness” that it is at once engaging and surprising. For him, giving back is simply a part of the equation to being a small, hometown business, stating, “You do what you can to give back.”
McCarthy’s has been a family-run business selling high quality pre-owned vehicles since 1979, and having a business deeply rooted in his local community is incredibly important to Mike. As he pointed out, “In the 36 years I’ve been selling cars and in the car business in SLO, I’ve worked within a two-mile radius of where I’m located now.” Having successfully weathered the ups and downs of the local economy for over the last 30+ years, Mike is quick to talk about his thankfulness, sharing, “The business has been great for me and my family, thanks to our loyal customers.” And it’s this gratitude which lies at the heart of his many giving activities. From his participation in the Safe and Sober driving program with the Highway Patrol to supporting CASA and other local nonprofits through monthly drives and giving programs to donating vehicles to local families in need, Mike McCarthy has made it his business to make sure that his success is shared with his community, “Not only does giving back do good, but it’s a way for me to say ‘Thank You’ to our community for supporting us.”
Mike fondly remembers the first few vehicle giveaways they participated in starting back in the mid-1990s. “We were introduced to a family who needed a car to get to work. They had a lot of kids. And then another year it was family with just a single mom and her two kids. She needed to get her kids to school and herself to work and had no way of doing that on her own.” For these families, the difference a vehicle could make to their success was something that McCarthy didn’t want overlooked. “We know the difference that a good car can make in someone’s life. It’s difficult to support a family without a car, especially a family that needs more than a two-door. Having one that is reliable and big enough makes a big difference. And we’ve always been happy to have the vehicles to meet these needs. I’ve always understood the difference having the right vehicle can make in someone’s life.”
After those first several years, McCarthy’s started getting more and more requests from more people needing help, so the dealership decided to partner with us to help them with the selection process. “We knew you guys at FCNI had families who needed help, so it was a good option for us as we were becoming overwhelmed with requests.” So every December for about five years in the early-2000s, McCarthy’s and FCNI would work together to donate a vehicle full of gifts to families in need at Christmastime. And what a difference these vehicles made! We saw families being able to meet more of their goals, including securing and maintaining employment and being able to meet their kids’ needs—getting them to school on time, and making their counseling and afterschool appointments. All of this stability drastically changed the course of these families’ lives!
Like most businesses, the recession greatly impacted McCarthy’s ability to participate in charitable endeavors. But, just as they weathered other economic downturns, so were they able to get through this one, with Mike once again thanking his community and its commitment to supporting local businesses. As business improved, Mike again wanted to share his success with those in need. And this past December, he reached out to FCNI and generously donated an SUV filled with Christmas gifts to an FCNI family of five. Our staff took video of the family receiving the car and posted it on our Facebook page, which was viewed by almost 3,000 people! It’s encouraging to see the community respond to Mike and his dealership’s generosity in such a way—their inspiring efforts will hopefully be contagious.
Mike’s commitment to his community isn’t just apparent in his generosity; it’s reflected in almost everything he does. From his sentimental heart—he’s kept a key to represent almost every car his dealership has ever given away—to how he approaches being a local business, Mike McCarthy breathes community. “A big part of business is dealing with local families, local community members who live and work here—they come into our business and we see them in town. Giving back in any way that we can, is our way of saying thanks to these families who support us. And everyone who works for McCarthy’s is excited to give in this way—they want to give back. They like finding a good car and seeing how that car can make a difference to someone who really needs it.” Whether it’s keeping a family working to supporting a teen make the important choice of driving sober, McCarthy’s likes being a part of something beyond the walls of his dealership. “People remember what we do, and they come back to support our efforts. They want to support a business who takes care of their community. And all of the employees who work at McCarthy’s are very grateful that they’re able to do this; that as a small business we’re able to do this. And we’ll keep giving for as long as we can.”
To learn more about McCarthy’s and their many charitable activities, please visit their website at mccarthyslo.com.