COLUMBUS, Ga. (Nov. 2, 2013) — It is said that great things can start with just a spark — and so it is with "Changing Oil, Changing Lives."
The fundraising event started out as a simple solution to a conundrum about which charity Epperly Tire & Auto Centers should support. From its humble roots it now could go nationwide.
About three years ago David Epperly, owner of Epperly Tire in Columbus, had a dilemma that many dealers have: how to choose a worthy local charity to support among the dozens in the community. His idea: Why not support them all? Thus was born the Changing Oil, Changing Lives program.
About each month, the dealership selects a charity to receive a day's worth of oil change proceeds. It chose the third Wednesday of the month, because it is the slowest, and promotes the charity fundraiser on its signage. The selected charity of the month also is expected to promote the event among its supporters to draw in more customers, and thus, more donations.
With an oil change averaging about $37, a Changing Oil, Changing Lives event can generate about $1,500, on average, for the charity. The side benefit of the program is that some of those charities' appreciative supporters have returned for other services.
Mr. Epperly said the program definitely helped his business by bringing in new customers, but he was quick to add, "Of course, we don't do it for that. But the residual is you wind up with customers that come in and say, 'I'm part of this particular organization' or 'I support this particular organization. And we came out last month for your charity event and we're here to support you.' You hear it over and over again from customers."
"I think what it is, too, is people see the heart behind it and they relate to it and they want to give someone who is giving back to the community, as well," added his daughter, Lindsey Epperly, who is the dealership's marketing coordinator and oversees the promotion of the events. "Especially if it's a charity that's near and dear to them, I think they are more likely to show their support to someone that is showing their support for that charity."
The dealership has hosted events for all types of local charities, from the local chapters of the Alzheimer's Association and Ronald McDonald House to a pet rescue group.
Ms. Epperly said the program provides a two-fold benefit: "So we found a way where we could do it and educate our community about the charities that were around us and benefit each of those charities by giving back 100 percent of the oil change proceeds from one day's worth once a month."
Recently the Epperly Tire idea caught the attention of its parts supplier, Mighty Auto Parts, which bestowed Mr. Epperly with its inaugural "Mightiest of the Mighty" award for volunteerism and charitable work. The distributor liked his idea so much that it has become a participating sponsor of the newly registered Changing Oil, Changing Lives non-profit program. Mighty also decided to spearhead a nationwide test rollout of the program for its dealership customers who are interested in running events in their own markets.
It came in a dream
Mr. Epperly said he literally woke up one day with the idea in his head.
He founded Epperly Tires in 2009 after operating for 20 years a multi-outlet Tire Pros dealership with a partner. The Goodyear tire dealership grew to three stores in Columbus and a fourth is set to open nearby, across the state line in Alabama. So back in mid 2011, with his dealership expanding in the community, he said he wanted to help a local charity, in addition to supporting the local schools and Boy Scouts.
"I had met with my marketing team and we talked about several charities. I think when a business gets to a point their community has made them successful, then it's time to start giving back, and so that's the kind of conversation that we had. And we tried to come up with one particular charity and I liked all of them. It was a tough decision to come up with one charity because I don't have personal ties to any one of them like some people do…," Mr. Epperly said.
"I guess I dreamt about it... It's kind of a funny story. I woke up one morning and I told my wife and daughter, 'You know, I think I got a way to give to all of them. And this way we can sponsor a charity per month and I don't have to pick a particular charity to give to,'" he said.