Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

NEW ORLEANS – Auto dealers who are philanthropic standouts are honored for their good deeds by Ford Motor Co. at a ceremony here.

The auto maker’s annual Salute to Dealers program recognizes outstanding community service among Ford-brand dealers. A panel of judges picks winners from a field of 60 nominees.

The awards ceremony is in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention this weekend.

“For nine years, Salute to Dealers has recognized some of the very best corporate citizens within the Ford Motor Co. dealer network,” says head judge Edsel B. Ford II, a member of Ford’s board of directors.

“The honorees selected this year are living proof that despite challenging times, individuals of great character and generosity step forward and support their communities,” he says.

Honorees are:

  • Liza Borches, Volvo of Charlottesville, Charlottesville, VA, a United Way regional board member since 2004 and chair of this year’s campaign. She also helped create a women’s philanthropy group to assist local families.
  • Larry Geweke, Larry Geweke Ford, Yuba City, CA, and Geweke Ford Mercury, Lodi, CA, a long-time crusader for breast-cancer awareness, early detection, treatment and research. He started the Caring for Women Foundation that provides financial aid for breast-cancer survivors.
  • Denny LaBantschnig, Denny Ford Lincoln Mercury, Rolla, MO, organizer of a massive annual December food drive. It assists more than 20 social service programs. He also raises money for a school for severely disabled students.
  • Rick Mohr, Eau Claire Ford Lincoln Mercury, Eau Claire, WI, supporter of programs to install and inspect child car seats. He’s also active in the American Red Cross and at a vocational skills school for mentally and physically challenged trainees of all ages.
  • Phil Schmidt, Greiner Ford Lincoln Mercury, Inc., Casper, WY, a volunteer leader of initiatives for life-enhancing regional health care and community water-service improvements.
  • Todd and Scott Spitler, Brighton Ford Mercury, Brighton, MI, brothers who support their school system’s athletic and art programs, areas that rely increasingly upon community support as education budgets tighten.

“Selecting only six honorees from a field that included a multitude of heartwarming stories of sincere community dedication was not an easy task,” says dealer Sam Pack, an honoree in 2006 and a judge this year. “The individuals being honored this year are truly outstanding corporate citizens.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com