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From left: Jonathan Andrews, Tracie Patton, Julie Gray and Kari Hamra
McKenzie Robinson | SBJ
From left: Jonathan Andrews, Tracie Patton, Julie Gray and Kari Hamra

2021 Economic Impact Awards Philanthropic Business of the Year: O'Reilly Automotive Inc.

Civic Pride

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When giving is at the heart of a company’s legacy, not even a global health pandemic can stop it. That’s O’Reilly Automotive Inc.’s story.

When its 2020 O’Reilly Auto Parts Charity Golf Classic was canceled due to coronavirus pandemic protocols, company leaders knew they still wanted to give back as nonprofits were relying on their support more than ever. O’Reilly and its vendors rallied to raise $360,000 in grants for 32 Springfield-area nonprofits, like Care to Learn and The Kitchen Inc.

“That is probably the best day in my job here at O’Reilly,” says Julie Gray, O’Reilly vice president of corporate services, of the annual tournament grant presentation. “A lot of those organizations work collaboratively, so it was really neat to know that these nonprofits are out there every day working together in Springfield.”

From the auto parts retailer’s start in 1957, co-founder C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly established civic pride as a tenet. His children continued giving back in their own leadership of the company.

“It’s just a general company philosophy, and our best role models are the O’Reilly family,” Gray says. “It’s just truly part of who we are and it’s part of our social responsibility to give to the communities where our team members live and work.”

Last year, O’Reilly corporate offices, vendors and employees donated over $560,000 to nonprofits. Gray says the company emphasizes donations to organizations addressing hunger, homelessness, health care, poverty, domestic violence and literacy.  

From a single auto parts store in Springfield, O’Reilly Automotive (Nasdaq: ORLY) has grown to 5,660 stores in 47 states, 22 stores in Mexico and $11.6 billion in revenue. The company employs 79,051 people across its footprint and 2,253 here in the Ozarks.

“Every time that a team member starts at O’Reilly, one of the very first things in their new hire packet is learning more about the United Way and if they want to contribute through payroll deductions,” Gray says.

At this year’s United Way of the Ozarks’ summer Day of Caring, 12 O’Reilly employees spent the day landscaping at The Salvation Army and cleaning and planting flowers at Springfield Public Schools’ Watkins Elementary.

Now the retailer has its sights set on widening its impact, Gray says. Last year, it established O’Reilly Automotive Foundation Inc., which will have grant cycles open to nonprofits nationwide.

Gray is serving as president of the foundation and says officers are currently selecting investment partners. The first round of grants will be awarded this year.

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