The Charles Barker model for giving: Focus on ‘the kids we leave our world.’

March 21, 2020

Homepage Posts

Charles Barker.

In the car business, mentors make better models.

Early in his career, Charles Barker was fortunate enough to work under a successful businessman in the car industry who inspired him and put him on his path to financial and personal success. Before Charles Barker Automotive (CBA) became a brand of its own, with its hit campaign “Riding with Charlie,” Barker internalized a personal philosophy that guided him. ‘When you do well, you have a civic rent to pay.’

“Josh Darden showed me the way,” says Barker. “We became partners and he taught me there are so many great causes that need our help. You just have to pick and choose the ones you think are worthy. I had to find the ones I have passion for, and I’ve done that my entire career. But I sort of singled in on kids’ youth programs these past 26 years.”

Today, Barker is chairman of An Achievable Dream. “Most of our giving is focused on education, substance abuse, boys’ and girls’ clubs. I just think kids are our future. People say, ‘what kind of world are we going to leave our kids?’ I say, ‘What kind of kids are we going to leave our world.’”

Results matter most to Barker. An Achievable Dream makes it a priority to educate kids socially morally, academically, all at the same time. “We get them ready for the future. You don’t have to live in a certain zip code. We know anyone can learn. Our goal is to give them hope for the future, so they say to themselves, ‘I can go to college if I work hard. I can get off drugs.’”

Barker’s connection to the Jewish community is through CBA President Nathan Drory, who he hired when Drory was 21. Barker’s wife, whom he met in high school, is also Jewish. “We supported JCC and HAT and Israel Fest over the years because they are good programs. I have to see the end result. Nathan has been with me a very long time. He’s been very involved in the Jewish community. Both Nathan and Leora.”

As a philanthropist focused on measurable impact and leveling the academic playing field for all children, he made college, high school, and grade school level education his top priorities. He also created Champion for Kids, a charity organization that raises funds to provide support programs serving Hampton Roads youth community.

Together with his employees, Charles Barker Automotive contributed $250k last year to the Virginia Beach Housing Resource Center on Witchduck Road. HRC provides services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

“Cars are our business, but children are our future,” says Barker.

Barker stepped up immediately after the fatal shooting in Virginia Beach with a call to the mayor, and offering money for families left behind. He felt equally compelled to donate to the Police Foundation after the tragedy.

This level of personal and professional success could have gone to his head. Charles Barker wasn’t an instant fan of the “Riding with Charlie” campaign that O’Brien et al. Advertising suggested. “My first reaction was why would people want to ride with me?” says Barker. But he went along for the ride, and was surprised and delighted to learn how many people really do want to ‘Ride With Charlie.’

“I give back because it makes me feel great. And, let’s be honest, I don’t need another suit or tie.”

- Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor