There’s no question that car dealers are one of the first businesses local charities ask for help when it comes to support. Their beautiful buildings are the site of countless fund-raisers, and their gleaming fleet of cars provides transportation to hundreds of event-goers. And, while all agree that supporting local nonprofits is certainly a way to establish goodwill among customers and potential customers, they do it because they think it’s “the right thing to do.”


For six years Shay Rowe has been leaving his mark on the local community through his generosity to a variety of local charities including: Children’s Home Society of Florida,  Brevard Division, KLD Youth Foundation, The Women’s Center, Boys and Girls Club, PREVENT!, and Health First Foundation. Whether it’s hosting a fundraising event at the Melbourne dealership, donating cars and drivers to ferry guests to an event or providing financial support, Shay pays particular attention to organizations dedicated to making Brevard a better place to live. “It’s very important that we have superlative health care in our community and that the less fortunate, particularly women and children, are given the chance to reach their full potential and become productive members of our community. I know a lot of people who are involved with these charities, most of them volunteering countless hours of their time. Their support makes a difference, and I find their actions remarkable and inspiring.”And to those looking to find the right organization to become involved with, Shay advises, “pick something you either have a passion for, or that you’ve had firsthand experience with. Whatever you choose, be true to the real reason you became involved in the first place.”Local business owners need to be involved in the community. According to Shay, “We donate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to those charities trying to make a difference in Brevard County. It’s just the right thing to do.”


For the past several years, those participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk have been able to stop and take a break, grab a bottle of cold water, and receive encouraging cheers at Lexus of Melbourne. As presenting sponsor of the annual pilgrim-age, T.R. became involved with the American Cancer Society because his mother had cancer and wife Dale’s best friend was stricken with breast cancer. For the last two years he has also been a presenting sponsor of the ACS Cattle Baron’s Ball. Over the last six years, T.R has lent his support to a variety of local non-profits, including Habitat for Humanity, the Brevard Library Foundation and the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project. “I’m impressed with how Kristen Malfara (M.O.R.G.A.N. Project founder, president and executive director) runs a nonprofit organization to help the parents of disabled children.”The Viera dealership has been the location of a variety of fundraisers for charities supported by T.R. and Dale. “I think that it is very important to give back to the community and be a good corporate citizen, but I would advise anyone to be very selective in the nonprofits they choose to become involved with, and truly believe in their cause.’”


When Bruce Nelson, Jr.’s father passed away ten years ago, he and his sisters inherited the business and the desire to help the customers that supported them for so many years. “My family and I have been very blessed to be part of such a great community for 24 years; we are blessed to have such great customers who have helped in our fund raising efforts for all of our charities.” Those causes include the Tim Wakefield Celebrity Golf Tournament, the Brevard Zoo, the Children’s Hunger Project, Cocoa Village Mardi Gras, Q-Fest, Toys for Kids, the new FIT football team and Candle-lighters. “One of our employee’s daughters had childhood cancer and was involved in Candlelighters, so we were asked to help more than 20 years ago and have been a supporter ever since.”It is not all about business for Bruce, who chooses to support causes that touch his heart. “Most recently a good friend of mine approached me and told me about the Children’s Hunger Project, a local charity that helps feed kids on the weekend. I was amazed to find out that close to 44 percent of Brevard school kids are on an assisted or free lunch program and go hungry on the weekend. I thought this only happened in third world countries, not here in Brevard. I am proud to say, with our help in getting the word out, this year the Children’s Hunger Project will be supplying meals for ten schools. But a lot more schools need help.”


For two decades, A.J. Hiers has supported the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation and Joe’s Club with the annual raffle of a classic car. ‘”We give away only rare, classic muscle cars,” says A.J. “Because they are so rare, these raffles are the most successful.” During an annual picnic at Wickham Park, a winner is selected from entries that come from all over the world. The event itself annually raises between two and three hundred thou-sand dollars for BAF.A.J. also supports the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and is a member of the Melbourne Police Foundation. Every year his Honda Power-sports Dealership hosts the annual Breast Friends Ride for Cancer. A few years ago, A.J.’s mother-in-law began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s. “Little did I know that we would end up needing an organization that I’d already been supporting for 15 years.” It’s BAF/Joe’s Club that holds a special place in his heart. “I’m a military buff, and the people who I see there are part of our ‘greatest generation.’ They were such brave young men who went and fought for our country and we’re losing them. There are a lot of organizations that help women and children; sometimes I think the elderly are forgotten. It warms my heart to see them benefiting from something I’ve done.”