Dealer's Checks Keep Rolling In for Schools

John O'Dell covers major Orange County corporations and manufacturing for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at

From little acorns . . .

MacPherson Automotive Group, which launched a modest program last year to help local schools by contributing $50 to the school of a car buyer's choice each time a sale was rung up at one of the company's dealerships, recently passed the $1.5-million mark in its "Help Our School" campaign. (That's 30,000 cars and trucks.)

The program garnered some ink for company founder Joe MacPherson, who is nothing if not a canny businessman. But even when the local media wasn't writing about it, the checks kept being issued by the six MacPherson dealerships.

By the beginning of the month, MacPherson spokesman Jeff Cushing said, the dealership chain had provided funds to more than 1,250 public, private and parochial schools in Orange County. Some got more than others because car buyers were allowed to designate a school. If no school is specified, the MacPherson people find schools that aren't getting outside financial support and funnel the cash their way.

The average donation from Help Our Schools over the past 22 months has been $1,200 per school. The money typically is used for things that school boards have eliminated from the academic budget--musical instruments and band uniforms, sports equipment, science lab materials, and computer equipment and software, for example.

MacPherson originally had intended to stop the program at $1 million, but decided when that mark was met last year to keep it going for at least another $1 million.

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