David O’Reilly | Springfield News-Leader
As a longtime avid runner, I know that’s a great pursuit in many respects — healthy living, stress reduction, camaraderie. But it’s not necessarily the best way to commute to work. For that, we’re still mostly reliant on wheels — four, two or as many as needed to power public transportation.
And as part of a family company that’s been dedicated to ensuring reliable transportation since 1957, we know how important it is to maintain our vehicles for all the roles they play in our lives — getting to work, getting to school, getting to church, kids’ activities and the grocery store.
After talking with Community Foundation of the Ozarks President Brian Fogle about pressing needs in the community, the concept behind the Let’s Get to Work initiative seems like a strong fit for a charitable investment. My wife, Stacey, and I are pleased to be one of the inaugural funders.
We know from our company’s experience that the Ozarks’ work ethic is strong. As one of Springfield’s top 10 employers with more than 2,300 associates locally and nearly 70,000 nationwide, workforce development is a very real challenge. The concept of the Let’s Get to Work Fund attempts to bridge barriers facing those who want to be in the workforce or stay in the workforce with the demand among employers for consistent, reliable team members. Many of today’s workforce challenges are difficult to solve, like health and safety concerns, affordable and accessible childcare, and generational demographics. But transportation is one that we should be able to tackle with Ozarks’ ingenuity and participation from the public, private and philanthropic sectors.
The premise of this fund is fairly simple. Workers and would-be workers who have transportation barriers will have a couple of different routes to access help. Nonprofit agencies that work with clients on a variety of needs will be able to apply for grant money from this fund. They, in turn, will work with clients to solve transportation barriers. Thanks to partnerships with United Way of the Ozarks and the Springfield Business Development Corporation arm of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, employers in a 14-county region also can request funds on behalf of workers who come to them with a transportation-related problem.
The fund will be flexible to meet the needs of a regional workforce. It may pay for car repairs or new tires for a worker driving into Springfield. Another worker may need bicycle repairs or tires to get to a nearby job. For some, it may make sense to use a ride-sharing or taxi service to get to job interviews. For others, bus passes may be the ticket for daily transportation.
Stacey and I are committed to giving back to our community for many reasons and we appreciate the flexible nature of philanthropy to respond quickly to identified issues. We invite you to learn more about this fund at cfozarks.org/transportation. Let’s all get to work to break down one of the barriers between the great workers and great jobs that drive our region’s success.
David O’Reilly is executive vice chairman of the Board of O’Reilly Automotive.