In March of 1994, Allen Samuels accompanied Jim Yates, general manager at one of his dealerships, to the Smith County Junior Livestock Show & Auction in Tyler, TX.
That night, Allen Samuels East Texas Dodge bought every grand champion animal in the auction: steer, pig, lamb, goat, and turkey. All that was left was the Grand Champion pen of chickens, owned by Charlotte Langley of a Future Farmers of America's local chapter.
Another bidder noticed the dealership going for a clean sweep, and forced the bidding to $4,150 for three chickens — well beyond the $600-$1,000 that champion chickens typically sell for.
Charlotte also won a $1,000 scholarship from Allen Samuels East Texas Dodge that night, totaling $5,150 in earnings. It was enough to begin her education at Texas A&M University, where she would major in poultry science.
Upon graduation, Charlotte framed a copy of her photo with Yates and an invitation to her graduation ceremony. The display hangs in his dealership office.
Flash forward 10 years. Charlotte Langley is now Charlotte Lowe, having married her high school sweetheart. She decided to be an FFA instructor because she wanted to do for other young people what Samuels and Yates had done for her.
She is helping her own students learn about dedication, personal discipline, responsibility and leadership.
Through her four years in teaching (she took a year off for maternity leave), Charlotte has worked with over 1,000 students at Brownsboro High School, just west of Tyler. She has affected the lives of high school students, instilling in them a strong work ethic. She's a living example of a life touched by the generosity of a car dealer.
“You never know how many lives will be touched by you just helping one student,” she told a group of buyers before the 2004 Smith County Junior Livestock Show & Auction.
She added that just as Allen Samuels and Jim Yates had touched her life, she has, in turn, tried to touch the lives of students who will hopefully touch the lives of the next generation.
“This is like the premise of the movie Pay It Forward,” says Samuels of a 2000 film about a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who helps others after a teacher (Kevin Spacey) gives him that chance. “We've unleashed the energy and goodness of this individual to do something similar in the lives of others. And the string of positive actions continues to grow.”
Lowe says, “The most rewarding part is watching kids grow and watching them become young adults and become the leaders of tomorrow. You're so proud of them when you see how much work they've done on their projects, and how they've got their animals ready.
“I know that I'll never be able to repay the generosity of Allen Samuels and Jim Yates. However, I'll do my best by sharing my story and encouraging high school students.”
Samuels' dealership group ranks 41st on the Ward's Megadealer 100. Based in Waco, TX, he oversees 12 stores with 32 franchises and total revenues of more than $630 million. He has earned a reputation for overpaying at junior livestock shows in an effort to help local youths further their educational goals.
“We work diligently to help make our communities an even greater place to live, work and play,” he says.
In the case of Charlotte Lowe, he has created a trickle-down effect that looks like it will benefit East Texas for many years to come.
John Fletcher is president of Fletcher Communications in Waco, TX.