The “it” in this instance was the last four 2017 Corollas on the Tupelo, Mississippi, dealership’s lot that it offered to sell to the local charity below cost. That made it possible for the plant’s $60,000 donation to all but cover the cost of the vehicles, which Sanctuary Hospice desperately needed to begin rejuvenating its nurses’ fleet.
Sanctuary Hospice ministers to people with advanced illnesses who are facing end-of-life issues. While the nonprofit has its own facility, much of its comfort care takes place in patients’ homes across 18 counties in northeast Mississippi. As such, a fleet of vehicles that can reliably transport nurses and their aides at a moment’s notice is, often, a life-and-death necessity.
“Many of our cars had more than 200,000 miles on them,” says Harold Plunkett, executive director of Sanctuary Hospice. “The maintenance costs were going up. And there was a very real safety concern. If a car broke down, one of our nurses could be left stranded in the middle of the night.”
TMMMS was well acquainted with the organization’s challenges. In 2012, it helped underwrite the cost of medication for hospice patients. A year later, it made a grant toward the nursing staff’s continuing education in palliative care. And one of their own, Specialist Bethanie Humphries, was named to Sanctuary’s board. So, partnering with the charity to acquire new vehicles — to be built, sold and serviced locally — was a natural next step.
“It’s a great relationship that’s only continued to deepen over the years,” says Emily Camille Wilemon-Holland, special projects analyst at TMMMS. “This opportunity came along at the same time we were going to produce our millionth vehicle in our 10th year of operation and Sanctuary was on track to serve its 5,000th patient. It all kind of fell into place, in a really good way.”
Meanwhile, Carlock Toyota Fleet Manager Jim Nichols was thrilled to coordinate delivery of the vehicles, complete with vinyl wraps touting the collaboration. He also had no complaints when Sanctuary Hospice, thanks in part to another donor’s gift, approached him about buying two Camrys and making a plan to eventually replace the remaining 13 vehicles in their fleet with Toyotas.
“We’re on a first-name basis with the people at the plant, which is just 10 miles down the road from us,” Nichols says. “So when they call, we’re overjoyed to help. We want to be a part of it.”