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Thursday, 23 June 2011 15:42

Joplin, MO, GM Dealer Bolsters Community and Employees After Tornado Devastation

Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac in Joplin, MO, served as as a collection point for community donations of clothing, food, water and other supplies for those hit hard by the May 22 tornado.

A cluster of General Motors franchise dealers in and near Joplin recently weathered quite a storm and are continuing to pick up the pieces and do the best they can to support their local community in healng. The dealers also recently broke out their checkbooks and more to help the community recover from the single deadliest tornado in national history.

Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac was spared by the killer twister, but the automaker said the storm’s wicked winds touched the lives of “nearly everyone working there.”

Dealership owner Dan Auffenberg explained on the Faces of GM blog that on the day after the tornado struck May 22, nine or 10 employees showed up for work. Aufffenberg immediately recognized the severity of the situation and sent them home, saying, “You don’t need to be here. You need to be home helping your families,” according to Auto Remarketing News.

As of that point, five employees of Crossroads had lost their homes to the storm, and the service manager’s wife had lost her mother.

“We’re doing everything we can to help the employees of Crossroads Chevrolet come back from this tragic storm,” Auffenberg said according to Auto Remarketing News, adding that he has committed $50,000 to help his employees deal with the storm’s aftermath.

Auffenberg said the money is dedicated to making sure his employees “make it through.”

Meanwhile, Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac also served as a collection point for community donations of clothing, food, water and other supplies for those hit hard by the tornado and its aftermath.

“Everywhere you look is rubble, devastation and destruction,” GM officials observed.

The town in southwest Missouri saw a death toll of more than 140 people, and the tornado destroyed scores of homes and buildings, including the local hospital.

“Yet, as you look closer, you see people attempting to clear a patch of land, an American flag snapping in the breeze and a sign of thanks,” GM management highlighted. “At that point, you realize that Joplin, Missouri, is going to survive because of the residents who live here and the assistance from people around the country.” And some of these people from throughout the country include Crossroads’ dealer colleagues from neighboring areas.

Chevrolet area sales manager Gabriel Ismaio doesn’t live in Joplin, but it is part of his territory. When he first arrived the day after the tornado hit, Ismaio admitted it was difficult to grasp what he was observing.

“When you see it on the news, you only see it for a few seconds, then it goes away. But when you’re here in real life, it hits you pretty hard,” Ismaio said, according to Auto Remarketing News.

So Ismaio and Chevrolet zone manager Ken Sadowski contacted other dealers in their region.

“They all stepped up to the plate and they all helped,” said Ismaio, who noted other GM dealers came through with a total of $80,000 for the relief effort.

Previously, the GM Foundation provided a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross, and two full-sized Chevrolet vans were presented to the local YMCA.

Built at the Wentzville, MO, plant, these vans were to be used by the Children of the Storm program, which provides a safe place for youngsters to go while their parents rebuild the families’ shattered lives.

All told, contributions to the Joplin community from the GM family of dealers, employees and the corporation now total more than $250,000.

“We’re here to help moving forward,” Auffenberg said. “It’s going to take a long time to rebuild this community, and we’re here for our employees and for the city of Joplin.”

Moreover, the National Automobile Dealers Association Charitable Foundation continues to actively assist dealers in recovering from this tornado as well as other devastating weather and flooding.

“We’ve been very active,” said Bruce Kelleher, NADA executive vice president. “We’ve already sent checks to dealers in Iowa and Alabama to present to their employees.”

Since 1992, the foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund has contributed more than $5 million to nearly 6,500 dealership employees victimized by natural disasters.

“In letters and phone calls we’re receiving, dealers and their employees are telling us that they’re so grateful for receiving financial assistance,” Kelleher added. “They’re just so appreciative that the foundation is there to provide some help and relief.”

Dealership employees who experience financial hardships caused by natural disasters can contact the foundation at (800) 252-7233 to apply for assistance.

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