Toyota of Laramie

Jordan Grove, Mazin Mohamed and Julie Tritschler, all sales consultants with Toyota of Laramie, discuss this month’s donation video with Paul Atkinson, internet sales director, on Monday at Toyota of Laramie. The dealership is giving away $1,500 every month to local charities, using community votes to decide each month’s winner.

Toyota of Laramie wanted to do more than just sell cars — it wanted to have an impact on the community.

Through the Toyota of Laramie Cares program, the dealership is donating thousands of dollars to local charities and nonprofits, with winners including the Laramie Soup Kitchen, and January’s winner the Laramie Outlaws youth hockey teams.

“Everybody knows we sell cars — and we put stuff out on Facebook about that, too — but this is the bulk of it,” said Paul Atkinson, internet sales director for Toyota of Laramie. “In all the white noise of the dealerships, we wanted to set ourselves apart.”

Each month, Toyota of Laramie donates $1,500 to a charity with the most votes from the community. A list of eligible charities and nonprofits can be found on the Toyota of Laramie Facebook page in the description of the video posts, and single votes can be cast via text to 307-228-4470 or Facebook comments each day.

For a less tedious way to cast several votes, buying a car is worth 100 votes, having a car serviced is worth 50 and a service estimate is worth 25. Atkinson said it was a great way to donate money to good causes while also engaging with the community.

“It’s been really important early on to make sure that we’re impacting the community in a positive way,” Atkinson said. “It was a unique way for us to be like, ‘Hey look, we are giving back to the community, but we want you to be involved — by the way, we sell cars, too.’”

Atkinson said the program, which started in October, not only donates money to the organizations but helps bring awareness to them, too.

“There’s so many organizations in this little town that people don’t know about,” Atkinson said. “Maybe they’ve heard about Laramie Soup Kitchen, but now they’re more aware of it.”

The Laramie Soup Kitchen was December’s winner, and Atkison said each winner gets two videos posted on the Toyota of Laramie Cares Facebook page that explain more about the winner’s mission and services, as well as how the donation will help their cause and the community.

In addition to the monthly $1,500 winner, Toyota of Laramie also donates $500 each month to a family or organization chosen by the dealership based on hardship. This contest is more private; Atkinson said right now just employees at the dealership can cast deciding votes.

“The public can suggest the hardship cases, but for right now we’re keeping voting for that internal,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said the response in the program’s first few months has been great, with hundreds of comments on the videos and votes pouring into the dealership. He added the program will go on indefinitely, but he would like to see it grow as it gains traction.

“We started with $2,000, and the goal is to hopefully gain more business so we can put more money into that,” Atkinson said.

Groups can apply to be added to the list of eligible charities by picking up an application at the dealership or applying online at www.toyotaoflaramie.com/cares. Atkinson said the application is free and just requires some information to ensure the group is eligible. Groups are required to be “located in and directly benefit Laramie, Wyoming,” and must be accepted by Toyota of Laramie to be considered eligible, according to the application. Each organization can only win once in a calendar year.

To see the list of charities, past winners and to vote for next month’s winner, go to www.facebook.com/toyotaoflaramie/ or visit Toyota of Laramie at 2310 Grand Ave.

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