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Vester Auto Group donates 1,010 backpacks

A Wilson County Schools truck pulled away from the Hubert Vester Toyota dealership on Wednesday morning loaded with more than 1,000 backpacks for families in need.

The Vester Auto Group’s annual Operation Backpack project could have been much less successful had the company relied solely on donations based on car sales, as it has done in the past, but employees were not about to let that happen.

“We usually do this based on a per-car basis, donating a certain amount per car that we sell,” said Chris Vester, chief operating officer for the Vester Auto Group. “The employees knew that with the limited inventory that we’ve been able to get from the manufacturers to sell, that it was going to be very hard for us to reach that goal. The company’s employees came together, unbeknownst to us (Vester and his father, Hubert Vester), and collectively out of their personal funds donated $3,100 for 310 backpacks. It was enlightening to us that we as a company are trying to help the community and our employees are trying to help right along with us. It meant a whole lot to us.”

Vester donated 700 backpacks filled with supplies via the sale of new and used vehicles during the month of June, and the remaining 310 backpacks and supplies were purchased with donations from employees at the Vester Toyota, Chevrolet and Honda dealerships in Wilson. 

Paul McCoy, Vester Auto Group operations manager, realized the lack of new car inventory was going to put a damper on this year’s project and decided to take his concerns to fellow employees.

“There aren’t a lot of new cars to sell anymore, so that’s why we (employees) decided to get involved this year and chip in,” McCoy said. “We bought the backpacks in bulk, and then employees helped pack them with school supplies. Some gave a lot, some gave a little, but everybody gave something.”

This was the Vester Auto Group’s 11th year organizing Operation Backpack. Last year, the group donated 750 backpacks.

“We know the need is there for the backpacks, and our company has a set of core values, one of which is ‘Passion to Serve,’” Vester said. “We feel that this is one of the best ways we can present that service that is just not within the business, but in the community itself.”

“And when you’re trying to make a community better, what better way to go than with the schools,” added Hubert Vester, the auto group’s founder and owner. “You start early, as a child, and bring them up the right way and get them educated. It gives them much better opportunities in the future. And it really touches our hearts to be able to give back to the community and to help the community be a better place to live.”

Amber Lynch, director of public relations for Wilson County Schools, oversees the school system’s annual backpack drive and was present for Wednesday morning’s stuffing and loading of backpacks at Vester Toyota. The school system coordinates the countywide donation effort, which seeks backpacks and school supplies for 3,000 Wilson County students.

“We will take these backpacks directly to the schools, where principals, counselors and social workers who know the families who are most in need will connect with those families to make sure their children have backpacks on the first day of school,” Lynch said. “With the backpacks from Vester, we’ve got seven schools that we’re going to go to now, and we’ll probably get to the rest of the schools next week to deliver the other backpacks we’ve received.”