County Tire helps to stock food shelves with ‘free brakes’ promotion

County Tire Center’s first annual “Free brakes for food” campaign last month resulted in the donation of hundreds of pounds of food to the local emergency food shelf at Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, a Middlebury nonprofit known as HOPE.
Steve and Lisa Dupoise, owners of the Middlebury car repair business, said they were introduced to the idea through a radio commercial that promoted a similar campaign by Auto Craftsman, a service and repair shop in Montpelier. “We can do that!” they thought, and looked for a parts supplier to partner with them for the campaign. Burlington Foreign Car Parts signed on and donated the brake pads and shipping costs to the food drive.
The Dupoises worked with Kate McGowan, executive director at United Way of Addison County, to find an appropriate organization to receive the food donation. HOPE was an obvious choice.
Here’s the deal on which they settled: For a contribution of 10 non-perishable grocery items, a customer received a free brake inspection. If the brakes needed repair or replacement, the customer got a set of high-quality brake pads free of cost and a half an hour off of the labor costs. Dupoise estimated that the average savings for the customer who got a brake job was between $110 and $130.
While they did not tally the total number of customers that came in with food donations and for the free inspection, County Tire calculated it completed 40 sets of new brakes during this promotion between Feb. 1 and March 8. This nearly doubled the number of brake jobs completed in February of 2012.
“This was a win-win program for everybody,” Steve Dupoise said. “We did see some new faces come through the door, and it made up for a season that is usually pretty slow around here.”
It also helps make up for a typically slow giving period at food shelves, so the donation of over 700 pounds of food from County Tire was received gratefully from HOPE, which provides food assistance to more than 600 people each month.
“The shelves get pretty low this time of year and the food goes out as quickly as it comes in,” said HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross.
County Tire’s donation “came in with a smile” Montross noted, recalling the day Steve and Lisa Dupoise showed up with their van jam-packed with food.
The Dupoises say they have always enjoyed donating to local organizations, but this is the first year they have run a campaign through their business. While they learned some lessons and would change a few things going forward, overall it was a success.
“My goal is to do this annually,” Steve Dupoise said. “Next year we will start the campaign earlier, getting the word out to a broader advertising base and begin planning it several months before the campaign begins.
“If I can get more people aware of this and willing to participate, that would be phenomenal,” he added. “I’d like to see 1,400 pounds of food next year — let’s double it!
“And with the way the economy’s going, we may need even more food next year,” Dupoise said.

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