2023 Subaru Love Promise® Retailer of the Year

By Kate Bernot
Mar 7, 2024 10:12 AM ET


The award goes to Subaru of Las Vegas for weaving “servant leadership” into its company culture.

Service to the community has long been in the DNA of Subaru of Las Vegas, but the COVID-19 pandemic opened the retailer’s eyes to just how essential it is to its neighbors. Because car dealerships were deemed essential businesses, Subaru of Las Vegas was able to provide common space where members of the public could safely distance and carry out critical events, such as Red Cross® blood drives. When public spaces weren’t able to open, Subaru of Las Vegas invited nonprofits, health organizations and others to use its community room to further their goals.

That commitment only strengthened in the ensuing years. In 2022, Subaru of Las Vegas donated time, space and monetary contributions to 50 nonprofit partners, up from 23 in 2020. The community room now provides space for two to four events per week for partner organizations.

“This is us. This is what we do,” says general manager Burton Hughes, who has worked for Subaru of Las Vegas since 2005. “That sense of giving back to the community permeates our business. It is the culture of our business.”

Hughes emphasizes servant leadership, a philosophy of shared power and an orientation toward the greater good. Guided by this principle, Subaru of Las Vegas’ charitable partners span a wide range of causes, from Make-A-Wish® Southern Nevada, which creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses; to Red Rock Search & Rescue, a volunteer team that assists in finding missing and lost neighbors; to Michael’s Angel Paws, which offers service, therapy, and obedience training for dogs.

Subaru of Las Vegas is guided by the Subaru Love Promise pillars, especially in its efforts to serve those with critical illnesses, support pets and animals and provide educational opportunities. Charitable partners also tend to have a personal tie to employees.

“There is so much need out there, and it’s impossible for us to fulfill all of that. But your heart tells you where you need to help,” says assistant general manager Jennifer Vitale. “All of us on staff are uniquely and personally connected to either a story or the services that a nonprofit provides. We’re impacted in some shape or form.”

Since 2019, Subaru of Las Vegas has donated more than $200,000 to Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada, empowering over 20 wishes for local children and young adults, including the complete restoration of a 1981 vehicle for 20-year-old Joseph, who is battling chronic kidney disease. The retailer also jumped at the chance to assist the Jolly family, whose son, Colin, was given an off-road wheelchair to enable him to join his outdoor-loving family on hikes and camping trips.

“Adventure, off-road, all of that – we said, ‘This is a Subaru wish for sure!’” says Hughes. Subaru of Las Vegas doesn’t only provide monetary donations to Make-A-Wish, but it has also hosted five wish reveals at its showroom. The chance to actually meet and welcome the children and their families has had profound impacts on employees.

“We expect to go into it to make a difference, and we all come out of it with them having made an impact on us,” Vitale says.

In another example of how service reciprocally impacts employees as well as the community, five staff members from Subaru of Las Vegas volunteered to have their dogs trained as therapy dogs with Michael’s Angel Paws. This involved roughly 100 hours of training per dog before they graduated to full therapy dogs. Today, those canine ambassadors bring smiles and comfort to seniors in assisted living homes as well as to children and families.

Hughes credits Subaru of Las Vegas’ noncommissioned sales model for providing staff the time to connect more substantially with customers. This allows them to learn about neighbors’ needs beyond just buying or servicing a vehicle.

“We’re connecting with people on a deeper level,” Vitale says. “The fact that our employees genuinely have a heart to give back to the community. … These are the things that matter to the people who walk through our door. They’re not getting a show. They’re getting real people.”

Finalists for Retailer of the Year

These five finalists for Retailer of the Year made a difference in their communities through supporting youth, giving to those in need and helping animals.

Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Treating others as you want to be treated is a sentiment they live by at Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says president Doug Jones. He loves seeing how employees gravitate toward a certain charity and the joy people find in personally meaningful volunteer work. “To see them help, mentor and volunteer with such passion is a neat thing to witness,” he says. Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg partners with more than two dozen local charities and nonprofits.

Helping others is not limited to partnering with organizations. Staffers at Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg recently helped bring items to people without homes who were living under a bridge just miles from the retailer.

When they opened up their Subaru Ascent vehicles – which were full of tents, blankets, food, clothing, hats and shoes – some people started to cry, he recalls. “They were so happy that someone took the time to help them and care about them,” he says. “Times like this one are the reasons we do what we do.”

Five Star Subaru, Grapevine, Texas

Among the places supported by Five Star Subaru in Grapevine, Texas, the list of organizations is decidedly diverse, from Meals on Wheels to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®. General manager Tony Hooman says, “Being able to contribute to causes that matter to us and our neighbors fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose.”

Recently, he says, Five Star Subaru hosted what he described as a “joyous parade” to present a check to the Grapevine Relief & Community Exchange (GRACE), which the group said will go into their programs, such as a community clinic, food pantry and transitional housing.

Five Star Subaru also provided a check to Serving Our Seniors, whose services include transporting seniors to medical appointments, helping them with home repairs and creating wheelchair ramps. “This moment reminded us of the immeasurable power of unity and the profound impact we can create when we come together,” Hooman says.

Stanley Subaru, Ellsworth, Maine

Mark Politte, co-owner of Stanley Subaru in Ellsworth, Maine, recently received a note he will always remember. Every May, employees deliver care packages to all the schools in Hancock County for Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, they also attended the school assembly at Hancock Grammar School, where they encouraged the students to cheer on and celebrate teachers. “The energy from the kids combined with the excitement of the teachers was truly infectious,” he says.

After the assembly, a teacher wrote to say she had been struggling since COVID-19 and that seeing the assembly participation really inspired her. A child she’d taught during the pandemic, she says, came over and hugged and thanked her.

“[The teacher] said our thanks and encouragement in concert with the children assembled in that gym on that day reminded her that she was doing exactly what she should be doing and reenergized her passion for teaching,” Politte says.

Valenti Subaru, Westerly, Rhode Island

Even though Bruce Morrow, general sales manager for Valenti Subaru, doesn’t play an instrument himself, he feels strongly about supporting the arts. This year, that included The Chorus of Westerly, a local nonprofit that offers music and arts programming, and the Westminster Youth String Ensemble, also in Westerly, which brings together musicians ages 6 to 18 to learn, rehearse and perform music.

Morrow says he feels like it’s not as common anymore to hear of children in bands or playing instruments, so he loves to be able to help, including donations for $13,000 to both music groups that will go toward lessons and music education programs. “You can’t forget the arts,” he says.

W & L Subaru, Northumberland, Pennsylvania

For Andy Long, the dealer principal at W & L Subaru in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the partnership with Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center is professional and personal.

This partnership, which has led to nearly $500,000 in donations over the last decade, is important to Long not only because giving back is a passion but also because his son once had emergency surgery there as a baby, and he knows firsthand the comfort and care the hospital provides.

The retailer also recently launched a fundraising effort to help the local Ukrainian community. Employees collected clothing and food and raised $22,000 in one month. A moment that stands out for Long was talking to a refugee who had lost family members in a bombing. After seeing what everyone was doing to help, “she told me there is good in the world,” he says.

Kate Bernot is a Montana-based freelance reporter. Her other work for Drive includes a guide to responsible foraging, the benefits of backyard chickens and the story of vacationing in a fire lookout cabin.