Going 'Above and Beyond' to Help the Boy Scouts
Photo provided by Jaguar Land Rover
Photography below by Gary Baker
We don’t usually think of a car dealership as also being a community center. The physical plants that house dealerships are usually uninspired utilitarian structures with the single purpose of displaying and servicing autos.
But Ed Neyra broke that mold. Neyra, who acquired the Jaguar Land Rover dealership in 2009, wanted a state-of-the-art facility that would be atheistically interesting with unique spaces for people to enjoy, as well as being an inviting place to sell cars.
“I wanted to go ‘above and beyond,’ like the Land Rover motto,” Neyra says. “My intent was to build a dealership that could be seen as part of the community, to be a community resource used for free by bona fide organizations to hold events.”
Neyra built a facility in Blue Ash that is indeed above and beyond the typical dealer showroom. Off the main showroom entrance is a large room suitable for cocktail parties and banquets. In the rear of the facility is a bucolic landscaped setting with a pond and fountain, ringed by a sculpture garden that includes a stone pagoda honoring the U.S. armed forces. There is a spacious event room, dubbed the Sunset Cove, housing a bar, game room, meeting spaces and Neyra’s collection of vintage Jaguars.
In the back of the lot is the off-road track, also available for community use, designed to put Land Rovers through the paces complete with steep climbs and water hazards. It is believed to be the only off-road track of its kind at a dealership in the country.
In all there is some 60,000 square feet of space available for people to meander, explore, spend a quiet moment, and yes, look at the iconic Jaguars and Land Rovers.
The Boy Scouts of America is one community group that has made good use of the space. For two years now the dealership has hosted a fundraiser for the Hopewell District of the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In May, the event raised around $30,000 for the Scouts outreach effort in Warren County to help at-risk kids facilitate their involvement in the scouting experience, starting at the Cub Scout age.
Neyra confesses to being a soft touch for anything having to do with kids. And it’s not hard to understand why. He is eternally grateful for this country taking him in when he was among the more than 14,000 Cuban children sent to the U.S. in the early ‘60s by their parents in what was known as Operation Pedro Pan (Peter Pan) prompted by the turmoil caused by the Castro revolution. Neyra was briefly a Scout in Cuba.
“We had Cub Scouts in Cuba, but then Castro came in and abolished all organizations like that,” Neyra says.
So, it didn’t take much arm twisting when Neyra was approached by Rhett Woerner, who was organizing the Scout fundraiser for the Hopewell district.
“It came to my attention, while serving on the Dan Beard Council, that there are a lot of kids underserved in underprivileged areas that weren’t getting into scouts,” Woerner says. “Ed has stepped forward in incredible ways. He has a soft spot for kids and for giving back to the community. He’s been very generous.”
Woerner, a retired Army Ranger officer, currently an attorney for AT&T, was also an Eagle Scout. He is a Scout leader for a Mason troop who knows the value of scouting firsthand.
“When I think about what scouting did for me, and what it’s doing for my 12-year-old son, it just doesn’t seem right that there are a lot of kids – even in our generally affluent area – that will never know about scouting because of money.”
All of the funds raised at the event are earmarked for the Hopewell District, one of eight districts in the Dan Beard Council covering 12 counties in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Hopewell covers all of Warren County as well as Middletown. It serves 2,500 scouts with 600 trained volunteer leaders.
Raising scholarship money for underserved families has been a priority for John Ralbovsky, who became director of the Hopewell District in 2015.
“I had a challenge that this district has a lot of untapped opportunity in the region. We wanted to develop a special fundraising event for the area, so it was wonderful that the dealership bent over backwards to help us by letting us use their facilities,” Ralbovsky says.
Money raised can be used in a number of ways. Ralbovsky says it covers the basic dues and uniform costs for a scout which averages about $200 a year. It also helps out with “camperships” helping defray the cost of summer day camps and other outings.
“Anyone who wants to be involved in scouting and needs financial help, that’s what this money is used for,” Ralbovsky says.
At the troop level, the financial aid is appreciated.
“We just don’t want money to be a reason kids can’t participate,” says John Dething, a cub leader for Pack 838 with 42 boys. “We know parents can be proud and they don’t always like to admit they need some help. But we let them know this money is available and the district has been very helpful to us, especially getting our kids into the summer day camps.”
Ralbovsky says some of the Hopewell initiatives include underwriting a Cub pack and after school program in Franklin and starting a Cub pack and Boy Scout troop in Middletown. He is also organizing a new Cub Scout program in a partnership with the Warren County Housing Authority villages and hopes to use the money to establish a new scout program in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, at the fundraiser in May at the Jaguar Land Rover dealership, Scouts, parents and benefactors got to ride in Land Rovers on the unique off-road track. The highlight of this year’s event was the traveling exhibit, “The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial,” comprised of 23 life-sized paintings of the Ohio-based Lima Company 3/25 Marines and Navy Corpsman who paid the ultimate price during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Of course, also on display was Neyra’s vintage Jaguar collection (His favorites are the blue convertible ’57 XK140 and the ’72 XKE green convertible). “I always wanted to be a designer. Jaguar brings that out in me, the styling is so classic,” he says.
The dealership has also hosted Boy Scout merit badge sessions at the dealership for flag care and fire pit training as well as the Pinewood Derby competitions.
Other charitable passions for Neyra include a major sponsorship at the annual Red Tie Gala for the Ronald McDonald House and a sponsorship of the annual fall Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“I am extremely blessed to be in America,” Neyra says. “And I am extremely fortunate to be in this business. I feel it’s a duty and an honor to serve this community.”
Jaguar Land Rover Cincinnati is located at 9115 Blue Ash Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. You can reach them at 513.791.1000 or visit cincyjlr.com.