The Charitable Leader

Friday, November 6, 2020 | November 2020

Head shot of Carl Hutchinson owner of Complete AutomotiveCarl Hutchinson doesn’t crave the spotlight. He doesn’t boast, he doesn’t brag, he doesn’t pat himself on the back when people are paying attention. That’s why he was so taken aback when he received the 2020 Humanitarian of the Year award at VISION last year. Under the Saturday night lights of the awards ceremony, surrounded by his automotive peers, Carl Hutchinson remembers his shock at hearing his name echo around the conference center party. “That totally took me by surprise,” he says, “I was not prepared for that!” Humanitarians rarely are. That’s kind of the point. “Many people congratulated me and said, ‘It’s well deserved.’” With a laugh, he pauses. “That was shocking—I thought others deserved it more.” But those who know Hutchinson weren’t surprised. His team and his shop do a lot for the local community and those in need—much more than the average customer could ever imagine.

The Subtle Approach to Philanthropy

Hutchinson is the owner of Complete Automotive (Springfield, Mo.) and considers himself, his team and his shop quite blessed. They’re up 8-10 percent for the year in spite of COVID-19 and car count has been steady. “People are making good buying decisions,” he says, “and we’ve figured out no-touch, no-contact ways to accommodate people. We hired a taxi service to pick up and deliver customers so we wouldn’t have two customers in one vehicle at the same time.” More than that (and central to under - standing why Hutchinson was recognized within MWACA), he asked his shop, how can we support people throughout this? Like many shops, Hutchinson was able to keep his shop open and his employees on their feet. “We take a more subtle approach,” he says. “We support the customers within. For example, one customer lost a family member to ALS and they started their own nonprofit. We chose to support the same organizations and activities as our customer,” citing 5Ks, half marathons and other fundraisers to support Lou Gehrig’s disease. Complete Automotive supports another organization close to home for many shop owners, employees and fami - lies—Brakes for Breasts. Since 2011, Brakes for Breasts has featured over 100 donor shops and has raised almost $1 million to support breast cancer research and treatment, and Hutchinson mentions at least one close friend recovering from chemo and radiation. “I love being involved in cancer research,” he says. “Our industry features more women than ever, and breast cancer is much more common than most people know.” (Brakes for Breasts is also featured in a recent issue of Ratchet+Wrench, and its founders, Leigh Anne Best and Laura Frank, are the 2020 Ratchet+Wrench Super Star Wild Card award winners). Most of what Complete Automotive supports is known only to those affected by their generos - ity, he says. The support itself is subtle, but not for those affected by it. “We do some promotional activity, but not much,” he says. Other organizations Hutchinson mentions are Rare Breed, a local nonprofit centered on kids who slip through the cracks of the state and social support systems. “They’ve cycled out of state healthcare but are too young to get any sort of adult assistance,” he says, “and there’s almost a two-year gap in which they have no reasonable way of attaining basic healthcare, food or clothing. We’ve been behind them for years, and we conduct an annual fundraiser dedicated to Rare Breed.” Most of all, Hutchinson, his team and his family support whom they support for one simple reason: it’s the right thing to do. The list goes on: Bridges for Youth, an after-school Christian-based program that offers kids a safe space before their parents get home. The Animal Humane Society. Habitat for Humanity. Though some in-person events have been rescheduled or completely revamped, Hutchinson and his team know their efforts make a difference for every organization, person, and animal they touch. Hutchinson has been involved in his local Rotary for several years and also donates blood on a regular basis, some - thing he took on personally as a singular way to feel connected to someone else who needs what he can offer. Hutchinson is so averse to the spotlight that even our conversation makes him a little uncomfortable. “I don’t do things to be recognized,” he reiterates in an aw-shucks manner evident even over the phone. “I do them because they’re the right thing to do and because people need help. I think the best satisfac - tion I get out of doing this is from the people who can’t repay us—they can’t give us an honor. Those are who we like to help; they’re impoverished or in bad situations, and if we can help them, it’s a feeling you can’t describe.” Sometimes the staff even donates their time and talents to customers experiencing greater hardships but kept their appoint - ments anyway. “Sometimes my team donates their hard-earned money by buying parts for people. It’s not just me,” he says, slowing down and thinking about how his efforts have trickled into those around him, “it’s the whole staff. We want to help those who need it.”

The Challenge and Charity Ahead

2020 is a year in which the fundamental fabric of America has been and will continue to be tested. Great opportunity stands shoul - der to shoulder with great hardship, and the question of getting involved has never been so prominent for so many. Be it through anonymous donations of time and money or more deliberate organizing and participation in civil, charitable or advocacy groups, the time to do what you’ve always aspired to (or are inspired to do) is now. Still, Hutchinson looks ahead with confi - dence. “It’s a struggle to try to do much for anybody or for anything because so much has shut down; all the events and public goings-on are either cancelled or indefinitely on hold. As far as a shop, we’ve stopped trying to get everyone together because we don’t want to contribute to the viral spread or create any problems related to recovering from COVID-19.” Much remains on the calendar for Complete Automotive. They’ll do another in-shop pet food drive for the Animal Humane Society, as well as ask for donations of cleaning and housekeeping supplies— something many overlook. They’ll continue to donate to Brakes for Breasts, and they’ll hope for a spring in which they can lay down their wrenches, grab a hammer, and get out to support Habitat for Humanity, sweating under the summer sun. Until then, blessed is the best Hutchinson can do to describe his situation. “We’ve already added staff this year and have been blessed to keep everybody on and working. We’re almost at our limit for our facility, and we’ve got a three-year plan to increase our sales fifteen percent year over year.” They’ll keep training, they’ll keep expand - ing and they’ll continue to keep something besides revenue in mind. As Hutchinson says, there are more important endeavors.

Mahatma Gandhi said,
“Be the differ-ence you want to see in the world.” 

Here are some opportunities to do so.
The ALS Association
Animal Humane Society
American Heart Association
American Red Cross
Boy s & Girls Clubs of America
Brakes for Breasts
City Kids Wilderness Project
Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
The Gates Foundation

Habitat for Humanity
Mental Health America
Midwest Special Need s Trust NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
Ronald Mc Donald Hou s e St. Jude’ s Children Hospital
Susan G Komen for the Cure
The Trevor Project
Urban Sprouts Veterans Community Project
World Wild life Fund

“My wife volunteers at a homeless shelter, and every once in a while we can help someone to improve their lives and try to make their situations dramatically better. Much of our outreach doesn’t have a name attached to it. It’s just something that we do.”

-Carl Hutchinson, Complete Automotive