Inspired by the work of Samaritan House Ministries, lifelong Brandonite and community booster Mildred Murray led the charge in Murray Auto Group’s latest philanthropic endeavour.
The group donated $250,000 to the cause — the largest single donation in the charity’s 30-year history.
"If you have done well, you want to give it back," Mildred said. "Obviously there is a need and so you do what you can to help."
Samaritan House runs a food bank, resource centre, shelter and literacy programs in Brandon. Currently, the food bank provides between 80 to 100 hampers per day, and the need continues to grow. A total of 114 people came through its Safe and Warm Shelter this past winter.
The generous contribution will go toward building upgrades at its 820 Pacific Ave. location.
"They’re doing good work here, and mom could see a clear need to support it," said Mildred’s son, Doug Murray, CEO of Murray Auto Group.
The donation was a joint effort, with Mildred contributing $100,000, while Doug and his wife Laurie Murray provided $25,000. The Murray Auto Group, which includes 30 dealerships across Western Canada, matched the $125,000.
"So really it’s our stores in all communities that donated to this cause," Doug said.
Samaritan House purchased the Pacific Avenue building in 2014, a structure dating back to the 1950s. The aging facility needed capital improvements to bring it up to code.
"Like a lot of old buildings, it needed some upgrades. So we just felt we could save them a bunch of time and effort and come up with a good donation for them, and do our thing to help," Doug said.
The donation has allowed Samaritan House to build new office space for staff and work on accessibility for future classroom space through a wheelchair-friendly hallway.
Samaritan House executive director Thea Dennis said the renovations will have a major impact on day-to-day operations.
"Before, we were scattered throughout the whole building, and that just isn’t effective or efficient," she said. "We truly are thankful for Doug Murray and Mildred Murray and the corporation that are able to partner with us in such a way."
There are seven full-time staff members and one part-time driver at Samaritan House. Some 200 volunteers come through the building per month.
"There’s a lot of activity here, and this is just another great step forward to be able to use the building in its full capacity, which is what the intention was when we purchased it in the first place," Dennis said.
Murray Auto Group is national in scope, but still considers Brandon home base.
"We love Brandon and we just love rural Manitoba," Doug said. "We love the people here. I even love the climate … It’s a great place to do business, we’ve got a very stable, consistent economy, and we really appreciate all the customers that have supported us over the years."
This history of Murray Auto Group dates back to 1926, when Doug’s grandfather, Andy Murray, began selling cars from his implement business in Souris. Doug’s father, Andrew (Clair) Murray, took over the business in 1945. Murray’s Garage expanded to Brandon in 1960, and Clair became president and general manager of Brandon Automobile Ltd. In 1971, he founded Murray Chev Olds.
It’s a true family business, with all four of Clair and Mildred’s sons operating dealerships in Lethbridge, Alta., Strathmore, Alta., Winnipeg and Brandon. Fourth-generation family members are now starting to come on board.
"My daughter and a few of my nieces and nephews are also getting involved, so yeah we’re getting to that stage," Doug said.
The company supports local charities in other ways as well — for every oil change done at either Murray Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC or Murray Chrysler Westman, $1 is donated to Samaritan House and Helping Hands.
The Murray family’s generosity was shown once again during the Brandon Regional Health Centre Foundation’s A Sense of Home campaign in 2011.
Doug and Laurie Murray donated $625,000 for the cancer treatment residence, named Murray House, which opened its doors in 2014. The $2.85-million facility serves cancer patients from rural Manitoba as they travel to Brandon for care.
"We do feel we’re just a small part of many, many contributors in Brandon, and we’re just trying to do our share," Doug said.
"We’re proud of some of the things that we do, but we’re also proud of some of the things that other organizations and groups have done. It’s really important and it makes our city and our community a better place."
» Twitter: @jillianaustin