Subaru owners aren’t just dreamers – they’re doers. Each of the 2023 Subaru Drive Community Champions saw a problem in their local community that touched them, and they decided to do something about it. Whether helping hungry and unhoused people, caring for cats and dogs, or supporting the disadvantaged and disabled, no community issue was too big for them to tackle. We hope reading their stories will inspire you.
Supplying a Local School
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
Human Resources Information System expert / Coordinator, Cruise for Foose
Photo: PhotoJENNic Imagery LLC
Growing up near Allentown, Pennsylvania, Lindsay Forney learned what it was like to live with less. “Maybe you wear the same thing every day,” she recalls. “In fifth or fourth grade, they don’t understand it’s not your fault you don’t have things and they pick on each other.”
Today, she coordinates Cruise for Foose, an annual event with Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg that benefits Foose Elementary School about a mile from the retailer. Every year, Subaru owners meet up to caravan together to Boxerfest in York – and they bring along school supplies and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste, to donate.
Forney estimates that this year’s event generated around $10,000 worth of the much-needed supplies, and Faulkner Subaru Harrisburg generously matched this dollar amount as part of the Subaru Loves Learning® initiative.
“Kids deserve to have the basic needs met, and the teachers care so much,” Forney says. The team originally planned to adopt one classroom at Foose Elementary but ended up taking on the whole school. They filled three Subaru Ascent vehicles, plus a few other cars, with so many markers, folders, papers and pencils that the school will have the supplies it needs for the next several years.
“They waved and sang a song as we came in,” she says. Little things like having cool folders and colorful paper mean so much. “It’s really removing a barrier to education and giving them the best possible chance to have a better life.”
Showing the Way as an Ambassador
Weathersfield, Vermont | 2023 Subaru Ascent Onyx Edition Limited
Bank manager / Subaru Ambassador, Team Subie Snails Northeast
When Carrie Cahoon bought her first Subaru, she decided to join Team Subie Snails Northeast. She was looking forward to fun enthusiast events like Wicked Big Meet and Subiefest or a VIP tour of Vermont SportsCar.
But she had a secret mission too.
“I’ve always had this anxiety to say hello to people I didn’t know or to hang out with people,” she says. “Even in college, I kept to myself.” She figured that being a Subaru Ambassador would help her get over her social fears. Over time, talking to other owners and the Subaru curious and chatting while working on community projects felt natural. “I grew to love it,” she says. “I kind of created this family among other Ambassadors in my area.”
This past fall, she partnered with White River Subaru in White River Junction, Vermont, for a sock drive to help local unhoused people. Using social media posts and Venmo donations, Cahoon raised $250 to buy and donate new socks.
Being a Subaru Ambassador has been transformative. “It’s actually helped me everywhere in my life. When I first became an Ambassador, I was a bank teller and didn’t want to interact with people or talk in meetings,” she says. “Now, I am a bank manager, and I’m out talking to businesses and people I don’t know.”
And at a pet adoption event, she spotted a dog with a red, blond and orange coat and had to have him. “His name is Maverick – he’s an Australian cattle dog and the cutest thing ever.”
Managing Social Media for a Shelter
Jacksonville, Florida | 2016 Subaru Crosstrek and 2020 Subaru Forester
Linguist / Subaru Ambassador
For Navy veteran and linguist Andrei Parlade, his pets are his kids. There’s Seizo, an American Staffordshire terrier from San Diego; Banzai, an energetic American pit bull mix; and the baby, Shoyo, a Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix that likes to chase cats (and sometimes children).
He and wife, Katherine, adopted their spirited pets, and so they feel lots of empathy for the hundreds of dogs languishing in Jacksonville animal shelters. Parlade’s way of giving back is by managing the social media account of Safe Animal Shelter in Middleburg, Florida.
Shelters often are understaffed, so employees overwhelmed with animal care don’t have time to respond to online queries about lost pets. “It can be draining and brutal,” Parlade says. “That’s why I do what I do and let them do what they gotta do.”
Parlade creates posts about missing dogs, shares updates and makes hashtags so the posts trend. He partners with Subaru of Jacksonville to design pet of the month ads, sponsor adoption events and host drives to collect dog food and other needed supplies.
He also supports Hope for Pits, a local shelter focused on rescuing American pit bull terriers, with online fundraising and transport. Pit bulls are often abused and frequently end up in shelters because they can be described as aggressive. Many Florida rental agreements ban them and owning a pit bull in Florida’s Miami-Dade County was illegal for years, until a new law went into effect in October 2023 ending this prohibition.
Parlade feels good knowing he’s helping dogs find loving homes. “It’s paying it forward,” he says. “I think that’s good karma.”
Cleaning Up Beaches
San Diego | 2017 Subaru WRX STI
Office manager / Event coordinator, San Diego Subies
As a San Diegan, Rosie Le is proud of the region’s reputation as a place with some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. But she kept getting grossed out by the things she’d find discarded on the beach when she walked her dog near Mission Bay where people picnic, fly kites, launch jet skis and make bonfires at night.
“I have a pretty active dog named Shadow, a black Labrador. We would go to Fiesta Island all the time and there was so much trash, he was trying to eat leftovers he found,” she says. “In San Diego you want clean beaches because that stuff goes in the water.”
In 2019, she planned the first Earth Day beach cleanup. Five San Diego Subies club members, including her husband, Michael Reyes, the club president, collected 300 pounds of trash.
Now, 30 members turn up for her annual beach cleanup event. Armed with trash pickers and reusable bags from Dalton Subaru and assisted by Subaru Ambassadors, they picked up 1,160 pounds of trash on Earth Day 2023, surpassing their original goal of 500 pounds.
Their tally included tires, furniture and several pounds of nails by sifting the sand with a magnetic rod. When people burn pallets, the nails and hardware are left behind, creating a hazard for anyone walking barefoot.
“I always had the thought that I wish somebody would clean this up,” Le says. “Now, I’m doing it. It makes me feel really good that we can do something for the community.”
Caring for Kitties
Bay City, Oregon | 2017 Subaru Outback
Retired educator / Volunteer, Tillamook Animal Shelter
Anne Harris probably inherited her soft spot for felines from her mom, who brought home all kinds of strays, including a Siamese and his bobcat buddy. When Harris retired as an educator, she began volunteering at the Tillamook Animal Shelter. The nonprofit shelter serves a rural part of the Oregon coastline that’s best known for the local cheese.
Seven years later, she volunteers full time, luring strays from under porches with tuna, collecting boxes of abandoned kittens and ferrying cats who need spaying to the Oregon Humane Society Salem Campus in her Subaru Outback. “There’s a lot of work to do, and there aren’t many people to do it,” Harris says.
She and her husband, Tony, recently moved to a house with a big basement that allows them to foster more cats. He’s fond of kittens, while Anne is drawn to hard-luck strays. They’re currently caring for 30 cats, along with their three pet kitties: Pumpkin, Gabby and Evie.
“What keeps me going is knowing we’re saving this cycle of having kittens born repeatedly,” she says. “I see progress when we adopt out kittens to nice families, and I get pictures of a 5-year-old child holding their first pet.”
Making a Difference to Many
Nederland, Texas | 2023 Subaru Ascent
Vice president and general manager at JK Subaru / Board member, United Way of Beaumont & North Jefferson County
Daylyn Turner takes community service to a level that can only be described as exceptional at his family’s JK Subaru location about an hour and a half south of Houston. “We’re more than a car company. So, we try to embed in our DNA our culture of being involved and giving back to the community,” says Turner, who runs the retailer where his father, Robert, is the principal.
Turner serves on the board of the United Way of Beaumont & North Jefferson County, where he recently led a fundraising drive that raised $24,000. His team also supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® by gathering fuzzy blankets for people undergoing treatment at the Julie & Ben Rogers Cancer Institute in Beaumont, Texas, and delivering nutritious dinners for Nutrition & Services for Seniors, a southeast Texas nonprofit that’s the Meals on Wheels provider for Jefferson and Hardin counties.
Although JK Subaru donates to many organizations, Turner gets the most joy from handing someone a comforting blanket or sharing a meal with a lonely senior. “It’s very rewarding to be able to participate and solve the problems and concerns on a granular level,” he says. “Instead of going to work every day and coming home, you feel like you’re making a difference in the community.”
Aligning With the Subaru Love Promise®
J. Mykel Hill
Coal City, Illinois | J. Mykel: 2016 Subaru WRX STI / Christine: 2018 WRX Limited and 2022 Outback Wilderness
Sales and marketing professional / Subaru Ambassador and co-founder, Subies of the Corn
J. Mykel Hill followed rally racing as a boy, so when he discovered the Subaru WRX, it was pretty much love at first sight. While he and his wife, Christine, enjoyed the camaraderie of local Subaru clubs, they wanted a car club that did more. So in 2017, they founded Subies of the Corn. “Everything we do ties into the Subaru Love Promise in one way or another,” Hill says of their nearly 700-member club.
Their annual event calendar is packed with drives for toys, toiletries and canned food that show their care for kids, unhoused people and those experiencing food insecurity around Coal City, Illinois, a town of roughly 5,800 that’s an hour or so southwest of Chicago.
For Earth Day 2023, they decided to do something novel. “All the trash from Chicago drives down Interstate 55. It’s all littered with plastic bags everywhere,” Hill says of the freeway that passes his town. That inspired the couple to launch the Stuff-a-Solterra campaign to fill the first all-electric Subaru vehicle with those pesky plastic shopping bags.
Working with Hawk Subaru in Plainfield and the community, they traded plastic shopping bags for reusable Subaru tote bags. In the end, they collected almost 5,000 plastic shopping bags, diverting an estimated 75 pounds of plastic from the landfill because the bags can’t be easily recycled like beer cans or bottles. What would have been waste was shipped to TerraCycle® for conversion into picnic tables or park benches.
Hill stresses that everything Subies of the Corn accomplishes is because of the support of his administrative team: his wife, Rob Barton, Eddie Groberski and Matt Yazumbek. “We want to use our vehicles and community as a way to give back to other people,” he says. “I’m proud of our club for what they can accomplish.”
Encouraging Boston Marathon Runners
Boston | 2023 Subaru Forester Touring
Event coordinator at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies / Volunteer, Boston Athletic Association
As 26-mile courses go, the 26.2-mile course for the Boston Marathon is mostly downhill for the first 16 miles. But an incline begins in Newton, and by mile 20, runners are struggling up what’s known as Heartbreak Hill.
For the past 15 years, Mark Grady has been one of the volunteers waiting on the other side of that hill with water, GU™ energy snacks and encouragement. “It gives you a boost knowing what’s on the other side of that hill,” says Grady. “The runners thank you personally when they meet you.”
The volunteers spend 10 hours standing in rain, sun and wind to be there for the runners. “You need to have a love of helping people. It’s a long day, at least 10 hours, and you’re on your feet,” he says. “When I ran my first marathon, I couldn’t have done it without the volunteers pushing me along the way.”
Grady was leading the team on April 15, 2013, when the marathon was shattered by the bombing that injured 281 people and killed three spectators. When Boston Athletic Association management texted that they should close the course for the runners’ safety, the team formed a human chain to block the course and keep marathoners from heading toward the danger.
“I told our volunteers, ‘If you don’t feel safe, it’s OK to leave.’ But nobody left. We knew we had a job to do. I saw it bring out the best in everyone.”
Supporting the Disadvantaged
Napa, California | 2021 Subaru Forester Sport
Co-founder at Judd’s Hill Winery / Volunteer, Be Kind Napa
“When I married my husband, Art, he said the most important human quality was kindness and, of course, I agree,” Bunnie Finkelstein says. “I think it was always a family vibe.” So, when Finkelstein and her late husband started their first winery, they decided that donating a portion of sales to charity was the right thing to do.
Over the years, they kept it up. And even after her husband’s passing, Finkelstein still responds to hundreds of donation requests that come to the family business, Judd’s Hill Winery. She sends out certificates good for wine tastings and donates wine to a range of nonprofits in education, health care and immigration – “any organization that helps folks who are at a disadvantage,” she says.
She studied Spanish to be a better coach for people studying for the U.S. citizenship exam with the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area. Each winter, the winery hosts a Hanukkah Hootenanny that benefits the Community Health Initiative of Napa County, which ensures that everyone in the region has access to health services they need.
Her favorite nonprofit, though, is the one her granddaughters started: Be Kind Napa. Talulah, 16, and Ruby, 13, started the charity in 2017 when they noticed that some students in their school did not have backpacks. Their website lists the needed backpacks and what kind of school supplies to add, such as markers, notebooks and calculators.
“My joy is once the backpacks are collected, I get to go and donate them,” Finkelstein says. “It’s incredible to see the faces of these kids. I feel like Santa Claus. It’s dreamy.”
Standing Up for the Disabled
Tuckahoe, New York | 2023 Subaru Forester Sport
Attorney / Board member, Volunteer New York!
Tara Zegers calls herself a serial volunteer, but the attorney finds it hard not to stand up for the underdog. It started when her son, who is on the autism spectrum, had some grade school challenges. She created a program that builds empathy by having each class study a disability in depth.
Today, she’s a board member of Volunteer New York!, which helps nonprofits across Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties find volunteers. That includes people who have intellectual and physical disabilities, since the organization is guided by the principle that everyone can serve.
In 2019, Zegers left a cushy corporate law job to establish a solo practice that helps children and young adults get accommodations they need to succeed in school. Many have invisible disabilities like auditory processing disorder or adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
She’s negotiated for medical and veterinary residents to finish their degrees and has helped elementary school kids get testing that they’re entitled to legally.
“I look at my community and say, ‘If it was difficult for me, I cannot imagine what it must be like for others,’” Zegers explains. “I felt it was my mission to give voice to people who may not have one or know that they have one.”