By Joe Mittelman
The Aftermarket Foundation
Founded more than 50 years ago by several top auto parts chain store owners, the Aftermarket Foundation was established to honor the memory of the late manufacturer’s representative Ray Jesselson. The organization’s sole mission was, and still is, to support those in the aftermarket who because of illness or accident have fallen on hard times, and literally have no other place to turn. While for many years, the Aftermarket Foundation was known as the industry’s best-kept secret, today the Foundation is a beacon of light and hope for those in deep financial trouble.
The function of The Aftermarket Foundation is to locate and assist people from the aftermarket who, because of catastrophic injury or terrible illness, have fallen on hard times and financially have no other place to turn.
The Aftermarket Foundation was started 50 years ago by a few of the largest chain store owners at the time, in honor of the late manufacturer’s representative, Ray Jesselson. They had the best of intentions to help those in need in the aftermarket with their Jesselson Fund. However, as entrepreneurs, they were far more preoccupied in growing their chains, which today are among the largest in America: Pep Boys and Advance Auto Parts.
So, for 20 years, the fund languished until another chain store owner, Donald Schlenger, decided to breathe life into it again. Don contacted several industry people 30 years or so ago to ascertain our interest in being involved, and we all thought it a great idea. Together, we made a go of it and it has grown greatly since then. Our current name, The Aftermarket Foundation, replaced Jesselson, as by that time there were very few who remembered him. For these past 30 years, there have been many industry executives who joined our board, and who have unselfishly given of their time and expertise.
Today, our board is composed of 28 high-powered volunteers from all areas of the aftermarket. They work hard on our behalf because they believe in the cause. One of our board committees, headed by Bob Schoeberl, is responsible for organizing our great golf tournament put on each year the Monday before AAPEX opens in Las Vegas. This tournament is always a sellout, and brings the largest single influx of working capital to continue our work. Other income is derived through generous donations by individuals, and from many of the nation’s largest retailers, distributors, jobber groups and manufacturers. We also receive yearly donations from several of the major aftermarket associations: AAIA, SEMA, MEMA, PWA to name a few.
We like to think of The Aftermarket Foundation as a kind of safety net. After our aftermarket friends have tried relatives, federal, state, county or other aid, and there is still great need, we are there for them. Through the years we have taken on and helped many heartbreaking cases, involving ourselves both physically and emotionally with these friends and colleagues while helping them make up their financial shortfall. It might be a one-time effort on our part, or one that continues until the recipient has recovered and is able to return to work.
Occasionally, a recipient may be collecting a very minimal Social Security check, and we may need to assist them for a much longer time. Each case is uniquely different and needs its own individual vetting and solution. We’re constantly looking for new sources of income to be able to take on more of these heartbreaking cases. One of our most vital needs is to make ourselves far more visible to all parts of our industry so that we can be the beacon to help these people find our unique source of help.
With this in mind, we are in the midst of building a new, exciting and comprehensive website through the efforts and generosity of Cypress Technology Group. This is the company that works closely with the PRONTO group. And, while board member Murray Sullivan of PRONTO has been on our revenue growth committee and working hard toward bringing in additional dollars, Bill Maggs, president of Pronto and chairman of AWDA, has taken the bull by the horns, jumped into the arena and directed the Cypress Group to work with us on this new website project.
Bill Maggs, being one of the best-known and admired executives in the industry, brings the hope of much greater involvement from other corporate executives. This new website is not only vitally important as a tool to bring in needed dollars, but also will also help people in great need realize there is help for them out there. Our operational costs are very minimal and that means that unlike so many other non-profit entities with large overheads, almost all of the dollars we take in will go where they are needed toward the benefit of those members of the aftermarket.
This group of selfless automotive execs works tirelessly to help those in trouble. This is just one more of the advantages offered to those who make their living in this amazing industry of ours. For those interested in making a donation, either as an individual or in a company name, we accept checks, credit cards or PayPal. The Aftermarket Foundation is a 501(C)3 charitable organization and all donations are tax-deductible. Please visit AftermarketFoundation.org for more information.