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Automakers, Start Your Engines: America Needs You to Step Up

By Diana Lee

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Now is the time for automakers to come to the aid of our country.

The pandemic has nearly broken the food-supply chain. Shipments of food keep arriving at shuttered restaurants. Suppliers keep delivering it, because otherwise they won’t get paid. They’re fulfilling contracts that the restaurants signed before anyone had heard of Covid-19. Now much of that food is going to waste. Meanwhile, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last four weeks. Many of these people need food. 

And we need cars — lots of them — to help us get that food to the people who need it most.   

My 78-year-old mother lives down the street from me. I often wonder what would happen to her if I weren’t nearby — if she had no one to look after her. That’s what drives me.

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So a few weeks ago, as the depth of this crisis became clear, I put my agency work on hold to create the Do-Good Auto Coalition, a charity focused on rallying our clients to use their cars to deliver much needed food and supplies to those in need. Rather than furlough my 65 employees, I asked them to help their fellow New Yorkers and others. Reaching out to clients around the country, I asked dealerships to help deliver personal protective equipment, food and other supplies to health-care workers and the hungry. The needs have only grown.  

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We’ve already been able to do a great deal. Bay Ridge Honda delivered nearly an entire warehouse’s  worth of Pret A Manger food to Services for the Underserved and the YWCA. This food would have been thrown away if a DGAC member was unable to transport it. 

Sansone Auto Group volunteered its vehicles to take 2,500 lbs. of potatoes from Pomme Frites in Greenwich Village to Bowery Mission and NY Common Pantry, two charitable organizations in Manhattan. 

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DCH Millburn Audi secured 100 N95 respirator masks, donated them to Maplewood, NJ, first responders, and made its shuttle service available to medical personnel who need transportation to and from work.

Bridget Beyer of the Beyer Family Automotive Group dropped off cases of 3M respirator masks and fresh fruit for hospital staff in Morristown, NJ, and the DGAC provided health-care workers at Englewood Health with anti-anxiety blankets from Bearaby3M respirator masks and certificates for car sanitizing.

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We’ve transported more than 13,000 lbs. of food in two weeks. The Department of Agriculture calculates that 1.2 lbs. of food equals one meal. So that 13,000 lbs. means more than 10,000 meals.

More than 100 dealerships and volunteers have joined the DGAC, including several in Dallas. But as the economic fallout from this virus spreads, we’re going to need more. We need more dealerships to join us, yes — but we also need the automakers.  

When Maserati North America saw an article about the DGAC, they immediately called us up to offer four vehicles and drivers. The company didn’t ask for press — it just wanted to help. That was fantastic. We instantly put them to work, delivering food items from three Pret A Manger locations in Manhattan to The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn. I went along to help hand out food, and it felt the way I imagine a war zone might feel. Hundreds of people waited in line. As we asked people to wait patiently for the food we knew they needed, we could feel that this need was only the beginning. 

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We know other dealerships want to help, too. We need them. And we need automakers: We need you to call your dealerships and staff to come to the aid of their communities en masse. We started this movement locally. You can help make this truly national — even global.

It’s wonderful that Uber has promised 10 million free rides. But Josh Rahn, a venture capitalist with Oceans Ventures, told me he can’t get Uber to respond to his pleas for rides to deliver to 200 kids in The Bronx who are now hungry. The Do-Good Auto Coalition wants to help. We are building tools in the background using technology to make all of these pickups and dropoffs even more efficient. We aren’t going to wait for others, but will keep doing good in the hope that you will join to make this movement bigger and bigger.

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Doing good is not just our thing — let’s make it your thing, too. Join us! 

Diana Lee, cofounder of the Do-Good Auto Coalition, is also cofounder and CEO of Constellation Agency

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