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Toyota Tsusho America rewards Georgetown College student’s idea with RAV4 XLE vehicle donation


Philipp Hoeper, a recent Georgetown College graduate and New Zealand native, experienced firsthand how challenging life can be without transportation.

As a foreign student, he came to America without a vehicle and didn’t earn enough money to buy one – a 1999 Toyota Camry – until he was late into his college career. Prior to that, he depended on his peers and fellow members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity for car rides and could only accept jobs on campus or within walking distance.

But his needs weren’t urgent or dire like those in a community who depend on a car for a paycheck, school and healthcare. He saw this firsthand as a volunteer with his fraternity at the Gathering Place Mission, a Georgetown nonprofit dedicated to providing emergency homeless housing to men, women and children in Scott County.

Gathering Place Mission executive director Andrew Baker was handed the keys of a 2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE, donated by Toyota Tsusho America. (Georgetown photo)

“During my time serving at the Gathering Place with Lambda Chi Alpha, I got to meet some of the people that rely on the Gathering Place,” Hoeper said. “During my interactions with them, I was able to understand the situations that they have had to endure due to circumstances out of their control.

“The theme of all of my interactions with them was the desire for a second chance to help them prosper. And it was clear that their immobility was a huge obstacle to overcome.”

Hoeper’s personal and volunteer experiences sparked an idea to improve Scott County’s transportation gap, landing him a spot in the Toyota Tsusho America/Georgetown College Pitch Competition earlier this summer. Those in the competition had just 15 minutes to present an original community improvement idea for the prize of $2,500 and a mentorship opportunity with leaders of Toyota Tsusho America, a multi-market, multi-business enterprise with global reach.

The contest was hosted at Georgetown and judges from throughout the community with expertise in business, IT, publishing, HR and accounting reviewed the presentations.

Hoeper’s focused on making vehicles more available for people who need them most. People like those served by the Gathering Place Mission. But it was a big idea that was going to take more than the $2,500 grand prize to make it happen. So, Toyota Tsusho America provided an alternate prize: a vehicle donation to the Gathering Place Mission in Philipp’s honor.

With members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Georgetown President Will Jones present, Gathering Place Mission executive director Andrew Baker was handed the keys of a 2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE, donated by Toyota Tsusho America. The vehicle had previously been in the company’s pool of department vehicles, where it was driven only occasionally.

“The Toyota Tsusho America/Georgetown College Pitch Competition highlighted the incredible gifts young people like Philipp bring to the table when it comes to improving communities,” said Mike Lavender, senior vice president of Toyota Tsusho America. “We are proud to support our local students and nurture great ideas. This vehicle donation doesn’t fully solve the transportation problem, but it’s a start. And, more importantly, it shows that speaking up on behalf of others can make a difference.”

The Gathering Place Mission promises to give the vehicle new purpose by using it to help bridge the transportation gap in the community, while driving more people out of poverty.

“The work that is done at Gathering Place Mission is so much more than just satisfying the hunger of those in need. Our mission is to empower the homeless toward self-sufficiency through the love of God,” said Baker. “We are thankful for Philipp Hoeper for his vision of caring for the organization that cares for the homeless in Scott County.”

As for Hoeper, his next adventure will take place in Essex, United Kingdom, and Konstanz, Germany, after earning a scholarship to study in each location for a year. He is pursuing a double master’s in economics and financial econometrics.

From Georgetown College

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