By Richard L. Gaw
Chester County Press Staff Writer
Like most people who eventually become dedicated partners with The Garage Community and Youth Centers, Flagship Credit Acceptance executive vice president and general counsel Chris Keiser was introduced to the good work of the organization by friends of his from Chatham Financial, who was the founding corporation for The Garage when it was formed 17 years ago.
“They invited me to the holiday auction that the Garage hosts every year,” Keiser said. “Immediately, I found a synergy with some things in my past, through my support of Big Brother-Big Sister, Habitat for Humanity, and spending time in Latin America, speaking Spanish.”
The partnership between Flagship and The Garage may have taken root the day Keiser was first introduced to The Garage, but it was solidified through the infectious link Keiser saw between The Garage and its founding corporation.
“I remember seeing the folks from Chatham Financial working really hard for kids who may not have had the same opportunities that a lot of other kids do, to try to help them succeed academically, and in their post-academic careers,” he said.
“At the time, as I was starting to gain momentum with Flagship in 2014, the year it formed, our management team sat down and asked what it needed to do, and among those things was to create a community outreach program.”
Keiser proposed that the new company work with The Garage and now, several years later, it’s a firm commitment of engagement and volunteerism that will celebrate another milestone on May 20, when Flagship hosts a free, family-friendly Spring Fling at Hartefeld National Golf Club in Avondale. As part of the event, which will include vendors, food trucks, bouncy houses, games, putt-putt golf and face-painting, one lucky winner will be selected to receive a $10,000 grand prize from a raffle, that will also provide ticket holders a chance to win a second and third prize of $1,500 and $500.
Proceeds from the raffle and event will go to The Garage.
Headquartered in Chadds Ford, Flagship Credit Acceptance helps credit-challenged auto shoppers secure financing through partnerships with primarily franchised auto dealers and through its direct lending platform, CarFinance.com. It currently purchases indirect auto contracts from a nationwide network of over 9,400 dealers and originates direct to consumers in 46 states.
The company’s partnership with The Garage extends much farther than the upcoming raffle and community event. Flagship began offering volunteer time off (VTO) for its associates to work at The Garage’s functions in January 2016, which enabled its employees to get involved with The Garage’s annual holiday auction.
“I know that our Flagship volunteers really like The Garage,” said Janet Syphan, who helped coordinate the Spring Fling benefit with The Garage. “They feel like it’s a very worthwhile way to give back to the community that we serve. By offering each employee 16 hours off per year to provide assistance to The Garage, it allows them to take the time to give back to the community.”
Kristin Proto, The Garage’s executive director, sees the impact that Flagship employees have on young people who visit The Garage.
“I’ve heard Flagship employees say, ‘I remember when my kids were in middle and high school, and how hard it was for me as a parent,’” Proto said. “Having a teenager is just hard, regardless of what your background is, but having a teenager when you’re lacking in other resources compounds that. Flagship helps bridge that gap for so many of our kids.”
For Keiser, Flagship’s work with The Garage dovetails with the mission of the company, which is to provide not only resources and opportunities to purchase vehicles, but to educate consumers about the loan process. It’s an education he wants to establish at The Garage, in the form of non-intensive workshops taught by Flagship employees about money management.
“One of the initiatives I wanted to take hold is financial literacy for kids,” he said. “One of my frustrations is seeing people come out of high school with little knowledge of managing a budget, or knowing the importance of a credit score and paying bills on time. A program of this kind will allow Flagship to teach future consumers, early.”
“I think the door is wide open to continue our partnership with Flagship,” she added. “There are so many unique things that we can do now that we’ve spent the time to grow the relationship. It’s more than just writing a check with a logo on it.
“This is a vested effort to get even more Flagship employees to commit their time to us. It’s the chance to share information about The Garage, company wide, to hundreds of employees, to get more people in the door to help students and continue to spread the work of what we do in the community to others.”
The $10,000 winner will be chosen by one of the teens from The Garage at the event at 4 p.m. Individuals do not need to be present to win, and can purchase tickets online athttps://Go.RallyUp.com/Garage-Spring-Fling. Only 1,000 tickets will be sold, increasing participants’ odds of winning. Tickets for food and games can be purchased at the door.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Chester County Press, online edition.