We are a giving bunch

by

Growing up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, I lived across and down the street from a bar that was a hangout for a well-known motorcycle club.

It was the kind of place where a midnight brawl meant that my friends and I could go out the next morning and find billiard balls in the gutter opposite the bar. Cops kept close tabs on the joint, if I remember rightly, and it was always jumping on the weekends.

We mostly avoided the place, but as it is with things dark and dangerous, there always was a strong urge to poke around and maybe peek inside during the safety of daylight. Motorcycles. Bad dudes. Fighting. What boy wouldn’t want to check it out?

Once a year, on the marquee outside there was an incongruous message alongside the dates of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs’ next appearance. It read something like “annual toy drive” or some such, and it always seemed odd (to my juvenile mind) that a rough-and-tumble place like this would have anything to do with toys.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the toy drive this motorcycle club held every year around Christmas was reflective of something quite common to the motorcycling world as a whole. Sure, the club existed on the fringe of the general two-wheeled brotherhood, but its members were doing the same thing many other riders were doing everywhere — giving and supporting their communities.

Motorcycles and other powersports activities attract a wide range of personalities, but there is one trait that seems to be almost universal, and that is, as a whole, we are a very giving bunch. Toy drives. Charity runs. Supporting veterans groups. Fund-raising events at dealerships. There are countless small events all over the country raising money for local organizations and groups. And then there are the biggies, the mega-events known far and wide — Oliver Shokouh’s Love Ride for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Ride for Kids events benefitting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

In 2009 alone, the Ride for Kids activities nationwide raised $4.4 million for the nonprofit focused on finding the cause and cure for childhood brain tumors. Some of the top fund-raisers contributing to that amount were held by powersports dealers. Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa, Ill., landed the top business spot with a contribution of $126,857. Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md., personally raised $59,012. Not a bad haul for either one.

When motorcyclists come together to give back to their surrounding communities, stuff gets done.
Take this month’s cover dealer, J&W Cycles, a Top 100 dealer for 20 years straight located in Washington, Mo. Owners (and brothers) Bob and Jimmy Jones not only serve on several local boards, they’re also behind a popular motocross race held each year and the local Town and Country Fair. Bob is also president of the chamber of commerce and Jimmy serves on the board at MMI, and the dealership supports several local charitable organizations.

The Jones brothers’ commitment to community even earned the dealership the Top 100 Best Community Involvement Initiative award in 2007. Reading over the list of activities and groups they support leaves one wondering how they have time to run a top-notch dealership, let alone get any sleep.

Examples of giving and charitable work can be found at all levels across the spectrum — from the bad-boy motorcycle clubs of my youth to the outpouring of local support offered by the Joneses, owners of a 34-year-old dealership.

So what’s the motivation? Hard to say or even guess, but it likely falls somewhere between laying the groundwork for good karma and pure altruism.

One thing for certain, the Jones brothers’ commitment to community has earned them and their dealership an esteemed spot in their local area and a loyal customer base, which is a pretty good payoff for simply doing good deeds.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2011 issue.

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One Response to “We are a giving bunch”

  1. Dave Koshollek Says:

    You hit the nail on the head Dennis. I think motorcyclists as a group give more than just about any other collection of individuals. When I talk to dealers about this I find the charitable spirit in the motorcycle world is well-known by those outside our sport. That’s why dealers get calls almost daily from foundations looking for handouts.

    All this is a good thing and I’m proud to be a motorcyclist for that reason.

    What I don’t like is the unfair pressure put on motorcyclists and dealers that reduces our enjoyment of the sport and the revenue attached to it. as one example I mention the exhaust bill that Schwartzenheger signed into law last year. This is a discriminatory law and it will hurt motorcycle sales in California and the rest of the country if the law creeps eastward into other states.

    I think it’s important for all motorcyclists and business owners to make a point to advertize all of the good things we do. Lawmakers in particular need to know what could be lost if the motorcycle industry is seriously harmed by harsh legislation and lack of protection from things like greedy insurance companies and distracted drivers.

    Life should be a two-way street. Take care of me and I’ll take of you. Motorcyclists have been taking care of the sick and less fortunate for years. It’s time for lawmakers to return the favor by passing fair legislation and protecting our rights to safely ride the roads of America.

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