By Curt Yeomans
Allan Vigil sees the relationship between his Ford dealership in Morrow and the people of Clayton County, as a mutual partnership.
Over the last 25 years, Vigil's dealership has sponsored countless Little League baseball teams. Every year, Vigil, 63, gives one new car to a randomly selected graduating senior who maintains perfect attendance, has no discipline referrals, and is an academically "A" and "B" student.
He's a member of the Clayton State University Foundation Board of Trustees, and is the chairman of the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents. Vigil also is a supporter of Arts Clayton in Jonesboro, and is a former president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors.
In Allan Vigil's eyes, it's all about giving back to the Clayton County community.
"Clayton County has been good to us [the dealership] for so many years, we feel it's our obligation to give something to the community," Vigil said.
Vigil was one of eight dealers who received Ford Motor Company's Salute to Dealers Award on Feb. 8. The award, which was established in 2001, honors dealers who have gone above and beyond to support their communities.
"They [the dealers] make such a huge impact on their communities through the work they do, particularly for education, so Ford Motor company wanted to take the opportunity to recognize everything they do," said Marisa Bradley, a spokesperson for Ford Motor Company. "They give back to the communities in which their employees live and work."
Vigil came to the Atlanta area in 1970 after concluding his military service in Vietnam. He was originally from Tampa, but wanted to branch out and try life somewhere else. He took a job with Ford Motor Company, where he was a field representative, acting as a liaison between the company and local dealerships.
"At that time, in the early 1970s, Atlanta was really a good, up-and-coming, place to live," Vigil said.
In 1973, Vigil decided to move from the corporate offices of Ford to the Handshaker Ford Dealership on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro, and he never left. In 1982, Vigil purchased the dealership, which took his name and eventually moved to its current location in Morrow.
He's been a supporter of Clayton State University since 1983, and has since become a regular sponsor of the university's annual student career fair. Even though he is on the board of directors for the Clayton State University Foundation, he keeps his involvement with the university to a minimum these days because of his membership on the Satte Board of Regents, which governs 35 colleges and universities across Georgia.
Once his term on the Board of Regents ends in two years, Vigil plans to ramp up his involvement at Clayton State again, though.
"Education is really the thing that opens doors for everyone," Vigil said. "If you have a good education system, you have a really good chance to have more productive citizens. Once you have a good education system, you have an even playing field."
While Vigil is the one receiving the Salute to Dealers Award, he believes it's something he shares with the people who work for him at his dealership.
"They have really bought in to all of the things we do for the community," he said. "I think this makes them feel pretty good about what we do for the people of Clayton County."