Sandy Raffealli learned a lot from her father, Bill Pearce. He taught her about the automotive business, certainly; but just as importantly, he taught her about the importance of giving back to the community.
“My parents both came from working-class families and lived through the Depression,” she says. “Their early contributions were of their time. Later, as the dealership became successful, they were able to support groups like the Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Club in additional ways.”
Raffealli, who took over the role of dealer principal of Bill Pearce Motors in 2014, says that giving back has always been part of the company’s culture.
“We’ve always felt that if the community gives us the opportunity to do business and thrive here, then we need to do what we can to help make it a better place to live for everyone,” she says.
Bill Pearce Motors has been providing vehicles for the Northern Nevada community since 1974, with its current line-up including Honda, Porsche, BMW, MINI and Volvo. Raffealli’s daughter, Lydia and her husband, Matt Meyer, also serve the company and the community.
“We keep our eyes on the future while appreciating the efforts that have gotten us here,” Raffealli says. “We strongly appreciate our employees, many of whom have been with us for decades. We try to focus on long-term relationships and not single transactions.”
Casual Day Takes On A New Meaning
To demonstrate how important they are to the company, Bill Pearce employees get a say in how the company gives back. For Jeans Friday, employees are encouraged to choose which non-profit will benefit each month, and then they make donations for the privilege of wearing jeans one Friday a month, with Bill Pearce Motors providing a match for the designated organization. Raffealli estimates that they’ve donated nearly $90,000 through the years — to non-profits including Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Domestic Violence Resource Center, Animal Ark, Children’s Cabinet, Step Two, Eddy House, Veterans Guest House and Hope Springs, the new bridge housing community created by Northern Nevada HOPES.
Arts, Education and the Environment
While the company has helped hundreds of non-profit organizations in its nearly 50 years, its people do have a special fondness for education, the arts and the environment.
They support the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows and Nevada Women’s Fund scholarship programs through time, money and car donations.
The Boys & Girls Club takes on special significance for Raffealli, as it is a way to honor her father. “He was a big supporter and created a scholarship fund when my mother, Dode, passed away,” she says.
The company also has supported education through donations of vehicles to the students themselves. Raffealli and her husband John started the “Fit for Perfect Attendance” Program in 2005 to encourage Washoe County High School students to focus on school. At the end of each school year, all seniors who have had perfect attendance are entered into a drawing, and one will win a brand new Honda Fit.
Raffealli says that the arts are also an important part of education. “Supporting the arts means support for performers and artists,” she says. “And there is education in the programming and wonderful opportunities for the community to come together for shared experiences, which can bring us together as a community.”
The Nevada Museum of Art, Bella Vocce, Reno Philharmonic and Cordillera International Film Festival have all seen donations of time and money from the Bill Pearce team.
The company supports the Nevada environment through donations to May Arboretum, Feather River Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy.
Though the Bill Pearce team is quiet about its contributions, their impact is huge. The company has been the title sponsor of PumpkinPalooza for the last few years, helping to put on the event that benefits the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living (NNCIL) and attracts tens of thousands of families to downtown Sparks every fall for old-fashioned family fun.
“We weren’t sure what to do with PumpkinPalooza in a COVID environment, but we knew we couldn’t just let it go,” says NNCIL Executive Director Lisa Bonie. “When we had to completely reimagine it from an in-person community celebration to a month-long scavenger hunt for individual families, Bill Pearce made it possible for Halloween to happen for a lot of local families.”
COVID Makes Donations Extra Important
Many non-profits were running on thin margins before they were hit by the pandemic and resulting economic shutdown, which has resulted in even greater needs.
“Many organizations have become creative in their fund-raising efforts and have turned to new ways of staying in touch with their community of supporters,” she says. “I’ve become a fan of virtual events put on by organizations like the Reno Philharmonic, Children’s Cabinet, KNPB and Step Two.”
“Their abilities to raise funds have been sharply curtailed,” Raffealli says. “We’re continuing our support, and in some instances, increasing, due to increased needs for services in our community.”