As the owners of Peterson’s Harley Davidson, Linda Peterson and her husband, Drew, hosted multiple toy drives, at multiple times during the year, across the area. But the couple, who call upon their customer base of more than 6,000, soon realized it was the same group of motorcycle enthusiasts who were donating at each event. “Drew and I saw the unbelievable response in our own neighborhood and we realized that it was more than just the motorcycle community that wanted to participate. We saw a community outreach that we couldn’t ignore,” she says. Building off of that desire to give, Peterson and friend Mary Faison formed Sugar 4 Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to giving children in West Perrine not just toys, but a competitive edge.
Toys and Tech
This year, Peterson is placing a focus on technology and aiming to raise enough funds to provide 1,000 laptops (complete with Microsoft Word) to middle-school bound West Perrine students. “Students at Southwood or Palmetto Middle come home from school and need laptops to do their homework,” she says. “A lot of these kids in West Perrine come home to no air conditioning, very little electricity… they don’t have the advantage of a computer at home.” To that end, Peterson and her team reached out to business organizations across the area, securing support from BNI Business Leaders and Rubenstein Law, among others. “BNI reached out to members and they jumped on the opportunity to participate due to their large membership,” she says.
Return on Investment
Aside from the toys and laptops, Peterson says the community unification has been a great byproduct of the initiative. When husband Drew asked what the ROI would be on the drive, Peterson says she had a hard time answering. But when the pair hit the Deering Seafood Festival this year it became clear that the ROI was more than measurable. “There were a huge group of supporters who recognized us and came running over to hug and thank us,” says Peterson. “It softened the cultural outreach. It brings the community together despite socio-economic differences.”
Peterson says she isn’t done once she reaches her laptop goal, with ideas for future initiatives already in the pipeline. After overseeing the laptop distribution (it’s done in conjunction with West Perrine Park and local schools) this holiday, Peterson hopes to turn her focus to issues plaguing young women in low income neighborhoods and to work with larger corporate organizations to make a difference in the lives of children in the area. But for now, she’s thrilled with the response so far. “The laptop is hope. It’s like ‘There are people who really care about us.’”