Recyclers Make a Difference


There wasn’t a hesitation when Shawn Letourneau was approached by his local VFW and American Legion. He gave a donation. As owner of Brunswick Auto Recycling, LLC in Brunswick, Maine, Shawn knows the importance of giving back. “I have family members who have been in the military and I know how much these organizations do to help veterans. This is one way that I can help, too.”

Shawn also donates cars to local firefighters and EMTs, and he has been doing it since the family-owned-and-operated business opened in 2004. “We donate vehicles for firefighter and EMT training, so that they can practice maneuvers or try out new tools to cut apart a car,” he explained.

He allows the firefighters and paramedics to do the training right on-site at his family’s recycling yard. Sometimes, they ask Shawn to flip over a car for a rescue scenario. He doesn’t mind the extra effort. “You never know who will eventually need that kind of help,” he said. “It could end up being your wife, child or friend.”

Such generosity is not unusual for mom-and-pop businesses like Brunswick Auto Recycling. In fact, a recent study revealed that small businesses are more likely to give back than their larger counterparts. The nationwide organization, SCORE, reported that “small businesses donate 250 percent more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes.” In addition, SCORE noted that “this trend is predicted to remain strong, with 81 percent of small businesses planning to continue giving in 2019.”

How do auto recyclers rank amidst this charitable trend? It seems that giving back is a common theme in the industry. Here are just some examples.

Chuckran Auto Parts in Bridgewater, Mass., values its local police department. So when they saw a need, they purchased four bulletproof ballistic shields, costing several thousand dollars each, and donated them to the Bridgewater Police Department. “We have friends on the force and heard that this was a need,” explained Andrew, who made the donation, along with his father, Alan, and brother, Richard. “The shields are stronger than traditional bulletproof vests. They stand up to rifle rounds and machine gun rounds. It’s a dangerous time to be a police officer. This was our way to help.”

Andrew noted that giving back is a legacy that dates back to his grandfather, who founded the business. “We’ve traditionally helped out and donated to the various departments in town,” he said. “We also have bought tires or donated parts for the police cruisers. There are times when the economy is down, and we can’t give as much, but we’ve been fortunate enough this year to be able to give back.”

For 35 years, Mack and Cecil Norwood have been supporting their local community, because as Cecil says, “as good Christians, that’s what we’re supposed to do.” The couple owns M.L. Norwood Auto Recycling in North Grafton, Mass. One of their favorite causes is the Cold Water Plunge to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

“They all take the dive; they are such good people,” she said. “I look at the little ones being helped by the Shriners and it makes me feel good that we can contribute.”

The business also donates to the Norwood’s church and various groups in town, from the police to local organizations in need. “If someone needs help, or even support or encouragement, we’re there for them. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.”

Brian Breininger is making a difference in the lives of teens in Richland County, Wis. As Vice President of L&M Salvage, he regularly hosts high school groups at this yard.

“I work with an instructor who teaches metal art sculpture at Wisconsin Dells High School,” he said. “The students come for a tour and get to take home a piece of metal that they use in an art project. Last time, they had so many students that they had to bring a trailer to transport the metal.” 

He noted that the students seem to enjoy learning about the auto recycling industry, including the buying and selling process. “We’ve been doing this for three years now. If I can inspire even one student to follow a career — or even for a hobby that will help him or her stay out of trouble — then I’ve done well,” he noted.

In addition, Brian makes it a point to donate to numerous organizations within the local community. This includes 4H, sports clubs, and more. “We’re all about local, and we’re all about the kids,” he said.

Some recyclers do get creative about how they give back. When U.S. Auto of Sterling Heights, Mich., started finding coins in their salvage vehicles, that prompted an idea. They collected the coins and involved local schools to help clean them. The business donated those coins to Macomb Feeding the Need - nearly $4,500 in total!

Many recyclers incorporate a legacy of giving right in their company culture. For example, Shipman Auto Parts in Brainerd, Minn., lists 30 charities on its website where it regularly contributes. Like many recyclers, they have a Community Contributions Program designed to help local nonprofits grow and prosper.

The SCORE survey found that 66 percent of small businesses give to local charities and 48 percent support youth organizations. They also donate to local religious organizations (39 percent), help local service groups (37 percent) and donate food or volunteer in soup kitchens (32 percent). Overall, “75 percent of small business owners donate an average of 6 percent of their profits to charitable organizations each year.”

SCORE notes that giving back comes with benefits, such as increased employee morale and camaraderie, and a more positive image for the business. Ultimately, it’s a win-win—good for the community and good for business.

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