Chairman-elect Mark Scarpelli of the National Automobile Dealers Assn. was instrumental in expanding the philanthropic footprint of auto dealers in Chicagoland, where his family dealerships are located.

“First Look for Charity (the Chicago Auto Show’s black tie preview) is a great night,” says Chicago Auto Trade Assn. President Dave Sloan. “We raised $2.5 million for 18 charities, and it really shines a spotlight on everything the dealers do in their communities. But it is just one night and Mark really wanted to have some way that would allow us to do things on a year-round basis.”

Instead of having the CATA compete with what dealers were doing to support their communities, Scarpelli’s idea was to extend it.

“A dealer will apply to the CATA and then we match that up to $1,500, depending on what the dealer has given, and it just extends what the dealers are doing in their communities,” Sloan says. “It really is a nice legacy for Mark, something that he started that we continue to this day.”

CATA’s “Chicagoland Dealers Care” has donated $100,000 to groups ranging from local sports teams to food pantries since it began in 2008.

“The program has really put a face to what car dealers do, not only in Chicagoland but across America,” Scarpelli says. “We’re kind of the backbone of these small towns and in many cases we are the largest business in town, hire the most people, (represent) the largest tax base and serve as the largest supporter of civic groups. It’s really special to be involved.”