The Williams Automotive Group does much more than just sell and service vehicles from its Wesley Chapel and north Tampa dealerships.
It literally touches the lives of hundreds of people in Pasco and Hillsborough counties by providing meaningful careers for its associates, and by helping people in need through its volunteer and financial support of several local charities.
“It all begins with the commitment of our owners, John and David Williams, who have shown exceptional loyalty to their employees and community since they bought Wesley Chapel Toyota in 2008,” said Therese Bottino, who heads up marketing for the business.
“Active community involvement is so important that it is the most important core value on our mission statement,” she continues. “This commitment comes from the very top of our organization, and we live it every day.”
Williams Automotive Group employs 460 people between its four dealerships — Wesley Chapel Toyota, Wesley Chapel Honda, Lexus of Wesley Chapel and Tampa Honda. Most of its associates live close to their work and are active members of the community.
“We are much, much more than just a car dealership,” said Eric Johnson, director of community partnerships for Williams Automotive Group. “Our first commitment is to make a difference in our community by giving our associates an opportunity to get out and serve.”
Johnson joined the company eight years ago in his outreach role, and was the first full-time community liaison in Pasco’s vibrant automotive market along the State Road 54/56 corridor.
Johnson’s primary responsibility is to identify area nonprofits deserving of help, and then develop programs to help by setting up volunteer events that make it easy for employees to become involved.
“We believe everyone has a desire to serve,” said Johnson. “My job is to create the opportunity by coordinating what support is needed at the charity, so all our associates need to do is sign up and show up.”
In 2018, Johnson set up volunteer programs with 10 different local charities, and had a recording-setting year for employee participation.
“Last year, we had 175 team members volunteering their time to serve at 41 different events,” said Johnson. “That works out to almost one event a week!”
An example is the volunteer work employees do to support Everyday Blessings, a foster home in Thonotosassa whose primary mission is to keep sibling groups together.
“Our associates get to know these kids personally by taking them shopping, signing up for Bingo nights and helping at fundraising events,” said Johnson. “Most of our volunteer events are three to five hours, and employees are given the flexibility to volunteer by adjusting their work schedule.”
Williams Automotive Group works with a variety of charities, so employees can choose to support those that interest them most.
“We have groups that focus on children, others that work with veterans, and those that serve the homeless and hungry,” said Johnson.
“Managers and hourly workers work side-by-side, and it’s a great way for our associates to get to know each other on a more personal level,” add Bottino. “We also encourage associates to invite their favorite customers to volunteer alongside them.”
Ronald McDonald House was the first charity that the company worked with. It added Habitat for Humanity the following year, and continues to welcome new charities every year.
In 2018, charities supported by Williams Automotive Group included:
Everyday Blessings Foster Home
Feeding Tampa Bay
Habitat for Humanity
Hillsborough Education Foundation
Pasco Education Foundation
Ronald McDonald House
Support The Troops
In addition, the company has pledged $500,000 to the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation, which supports cancer research, patient care and education initiatives.
“We set aside for Moffitt a percentage of the sale for every vehicle sold, which our company matches 100 percent,” said Bottino. “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer, and we are blessed to have Moffitt in our community helping cancer victims and their families.”
Williams Automotive Group believes that people who volunteer their time to help others make for outstanding employees.
“We truly believe that people feel better about themselves when they give back and serve,” said Johnson. “We encourage people to serve by making it easy for them to volunteer.”
Every year the company recognizes its top employee volunteer with its prestigious Volunteer of the Year Trophy. The 2018 winner was Patrick Welsh, a detailer at Wesley Chapel Honda, who has worked at the dealership for less than two years.
“Seeing Patrick receive the volunteer trophy was exciting because it shows that even newer employees can jump on board to volunteer their time and make a difference,” said Johnson.
Because Williams Automotive Group is family owned, it has the ability to make decisions quickly in all aspects of its business, including charitable giving, without the corporate layers often found at other dealerships.
“We see ourselves as your friends and neighbors, and show it every day by our very real commitment to the community,” said Bottino. “Many customers tell us they buy from us because of our charity work, and that makes us very proud.”
Published January 16, 2019