From 1972 to 1983, Phillip Miller served in the Marines. Those years made quite an impression on him.
“It changed my life around,” Miller said.
So one day five years ago, Miller was in a store when he saw a display for Marine Toys for Tots, and it gave him an idea.
Miller thought Toys for Tots would be a perfect charity for Hendrick Buick GMC Cadillac to participate in.
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“We sell a lot of cars here,” said Miller, a new car manager at Hendrick Buick GMC. “People spend a lot of money. We need to give something back, and that is what sparked it.”
The first four years were successful.
“Last year we were considered one of the top donors,” Miller said. “This year I’m planning on doubling it. I just think we can do more. I always think we can do more.”
The odds are high that the dealership will collect more toys this year. The main reason is there are now two stores. Last July, Hendrick Cadillac remained at its location at 907 W. 104 St. in Kansas City, while Hendrick Buick GMC moved into what was a Volvo dealership at 1151 W. 104 St. in Kansas City.
“We are owned by the same person,” Miller said.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition.
“I already told them we are going to beat them,” Miller said.
Each dealership will have a vehicle for customers to put their donated toys in while they are getting their car serviced or buying a car.
“A lot of times I will tell a guy if you bring in a toy, I can make a better deal on the car,” Miller said with a laugh.
Hendrick Cadillac and Hendrick Buick GMC will accept toys until Dec. 16 when the Marines come to pick up the donated toys.
“We collect money from employees and we have a young lady go out and buy toys for us. She goes wherever the sales are and gets the most for the money,” Miller said.
The spirit of giving is generally at its highest in December because of Christmas. Jeff Schuster, digital marketing manager for both Hendrick stores, said participating in Toys for Tots is a great way to brighten the day of some of the less fortunate children in Kansas City.
“Anything that can benefit the kids always is the right thing to do, especially this time of year,” Schuster said. “There are a lot of kids in Kansas City who don’t get a whole lot for Christmas. We try to do our little bit. It is always good to see people give back to other people.”
Filling up the truck with toys during the first couple of weeks of December helps boost the morale of the employees, Miller said.
“When the toys are in that truck, it gives us a sense of accomplishment,” Miller said.
“We get a lot of thank-yous from the Marines. It is a big appreciation from them, knowing we are helping a lot of people. They get a lot out of it by helping people. The Marine Corps does a lot for people.”
If you have a story you would like to see in Making a Difference, email David Boyce at Drive@ksctar.com