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Giving Back to Your Community

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It took Gary Denton a while, but he eventually discovered a foolproof measure for on-the-job stress relief. These days, when the owner of AAMCO of Prescott Valley (Arizona) feels overwhelmed by work, he simply turns his attention to his shop’s charitable endeavor.

“That takes my mind completely off my work—it’s like a stress reliever,” Denton says. 

Denton started the Wheels of Freedom Project shortly after finding a discarded wheelchair behind his shop in August 2015. The owner, who was nominated for a 2016 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award, quickly recognized there was a charitable void with regard to getting U.S. veterans wheelchairs. And Denton promptly filled it. 

Denton’s charitable work with the Wheels of Freedom Project earned him the Gold Award in the Newcomer category of the Franchising Gives Back Awards in September. He accepted the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Denton’s tips are numerous with regard to how a shop can best approach charitable endeavors, but he highlights a few.


Create time for charities. 

As a shop owner, your tasks are numerous. Yet, Denton says there are always ways to carve out time for community giving, especially with a solid calendar app. Using a digital calendar can easily organize your time, and also notify your employees that you’re not available at certain times. 

“To me, the calendar is everything,” Denton says. “If it’s not written in stone, you’ll end up booking things over that.” 

Denton suggests dedicating roughly 3–4 hours per week to charitable endeavors. He also recommends teaming with community outreach programs like the American Legion on projects. 

“It’s not easy, but worth the time spent,” he says. “I do make sure that all activities involving the charity are sponsored by my AAMCO franchise. That way, I am marketing my store all the time—much easier to justify the time spent.” 


Seize media opportunities. 

The first time Denton fitted someone with a refurbished wheelchair, in February 2016, the resulting outpouring of emotion left the shop owner forever changed. So, Denton spoke about it at a subsequent chamber of commerce meeting. From that point forward, word of Denton’s charitable initiative has spread exponentially.

“Right after that,” Denton recalls, “people started coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, I’m with the newspaper,’ or, ‘I’m with this radio station—would you mind if we interviewed you?’”


Get creative. 

Even if your shop’s coffers are limited there are still ways to give back to your community. Denton suggests providing an educational clinic to local scout troops, for example. 

“Everyone should give back to their community in some way. And it doesn’t even have to be financially,” Denton says. “There are things that you can work with a community on giving back, that don’t cost anything, really—just your time.”  


Make sure employees are on board. 

When Denton took over at AAMCO Prescott Valley, he made sure his whole staff was aware of his desire to be involved in the community.  He had to go through some staff turnover before finding the ideal group of employees that could follow-through on his wish. 

“It took some time to get the right people,” the owner notes. “And we’ve done that now. Our guys are very proud, for Wheels of Freedom, for AAMCO.”


Brand yourself at events. 

It only makes sense to get your business’s name out there when you’re out in the community, Denton explains.

“You need to be proud of your brand, and throw it out there,” Denton says. “I always wear my AAMCO shirt, and my AAMCO hat—so I’m representing AAMCO, always. 

“If you do something good, you’d better brand your business, because that’s who you are in the community, that’s where you meet all your neighbors and customers. And if it does help your business, you have more money to give to charities.”


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