Investments in young people are commitments to the future, and Luther Auto extended its hand by sponsoring the Brooklyn Center Soccer League, a second year city-partnership effort that began with help from Luther Brookdale Chevrolet.
“This is a great community,” said Barb Hilbert, chief financial officer for Luther Automotive, which spearheaded the 2012 work. “We have been here so long, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.” The area is also home to Luther’s largest concentration of dealerships, and has two new facilities nearing completion.
The soccer idea emerged partly through a community youth assessment process, explains Brooklyn Center Police Chief Kevin Benner, who began here as a patrol officer. The study found that youth with idle time in the summer were one of the leading causes of crime. Children engaged in soccer activites three or four times a week tend to stay out of trouble, and Brooklyn Center has seen a 40 percent reduction in juvenile incidents, the chief said.
Another key player in the soccer outreach has been Brookdale Chevrolet Accessories Manager Chris Johnson, a Brooklyn Center native who helped set up the first program in 2011. That league signed on 100 children in a single day, and in 2012, the number almost doubled.
From watching smiling kids parade around in their soccer jerseys, to the year end event with medals, participation certificates and food, Johnson said it was a wonderful experience. “I’ve never been thanked in so many languages,” he said, noting that it’s good to be part of the neighborhood.
Underutilized baseball fields are now being considered for soccer, explains Chief Benner. While
baseball and hockey are more traditional Minnesota sports, many parents in Brooklyn Center grew up playing soccer, said Johnson.
“We knew it (soccer) was there, but (before Luther) nobody had stepped up to plate to get it started” the police chief said. The company provided nearly all the supplies needed, from balls to uniforms, said Johnson.
Brookdale Chevrolet has had a positive relationship with the city, hosting special events involving the fire department and police. And, many police officers have volunteered to pack food at Luther’s Kids Against Hunger events. “I support each one of them wholeheartedly and try to pass that through my officers as well … any way you look at it, it’s a win,” Benner said.