By Sean Smith on June 25, 2020, Current Issue of Roadcar, June '20, News–Roadcar, North America, Region, Vintage Roadcar Archives, Vintage Roadcar Articles
Jim Petty and his wife Wendy had been watching the news for two weeks straight and seeing what the pandemic was doing to some of the more challenged communities as the lock-down and quarantine unfolded. He knew there was a stimulus package, but it would dry up pretty quickly. It was going to get tougher before it got better. He wanted to help.
Jim looked at his wife and said, “I want to help, we want to help, but the last thing places like Bridgeport, Bethel, Danbury, and South Norwalk need is another 61-year old guy shoveling mashed potatoes on to a Styrofoam dish.”
What the local communities needed were funds, so how could they make that happen?
How could they start a movement that would make a meaningful difference.
At the same time Jim was also coming to the realization that the car season as we traditionally know it was being cancelled with all the social distancing requirements.
He identified a need, the local communities most severely affected by the pandemic, and he also identified an opportunity to keep the car and motorcycle community from having a dormant season.
With his experience as a career retail executive, Jim felt he had a workaround. He would create a short “coffee run”-type rally, like the ones normally occurring all across the country, where people get together to look at each others cars and tell stories and enjoy the camaraderie. But he would keep the numbers down, so social distancing could be better observed. The idea was for an invitation-only run with a 25-car limit, in Fairfield County, CT.
Each car would donate a minimum of $100.00 that would go to local communities that have been affected by COVID-19. He was sure he could get some interest.
Using an old mailing list from the Alden Sherman Classic Car show, Jim sent out an email blast. The concept of a Rally Across America was explained. Jim wanted the proceeds of each rally to go to and benefit the communities near where the rally occurred. The recipients of the monies raised would be decided by the coordinator of each local rally. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The consensus was a resounding yes. People wanted to do something like this. Jim also connected with some of the heavy hitters in the local car community, Frank Taylor and Bill Scheffler to help with the organization and logistics.
It would have a very local feeling, but could be replicated on a national basis. Jim was creating a Rally-in-a-box concept. Jim did some quick math. With 50 states, if each state on average did 8.25 car rallies during the car season, numbers would roll up quickly to a million dollars. That’s a nice number that Jim felt could be doable.
by Ted Craft, at Weston Today
A classic car rally on Sunday morning raised thousands of dollars for the Connecticut Food Bank. Organizers Jim Petty, Wendy Petty, and Frank Taylor hope the idea catches on in other parts of the country.
The two are among a number of classic car enthusiasts who are having a difficult time getting together during the current health crisis, with most summer car shows canceled.
With the blessing of Weston Police, around 40 owners of classics staged at the Weston High School parking lot for a drive around town. Each paid a $100 entry fee. Some contributed even more.
Hagerty Insurance, which specializes in coverage for car lovers, was on hand. Mr. Petty told us he hopes Sunday's event will serve as a proof of concept that will encourage the company to get behind a "Rallies Across America" program. The idea is to have eight events per state this summer. If each had just 25 cars, $1 million could be raised for local food banks.
Ms. Petty is the director of the Weston Senior Activities Center. She has been busy throughout this crisis delivering food, with the help of some generous volunteers. She has also been running a successful curbside pickup program for seniors.
Those wishing to help meet local food needs can easily contribute to the Weston Food Pantry in a couple of ways.
Here is where you can find the stories about upcoming and past rallies that our ambassadors have created.