Champions Club: Committed To Community

Lithia’s General Managers in Grand Forks have come together and made a commitment to giving back to UND and the community with the Champions Club.

Champions Club

Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography

Lithia’s General Managers in Grand Forks have come together and made a commitment to giving back to the University of North Dakota and the community.

Four men, four different backgrounds. Together they have made a commitment to the community in which they live and operate their businesses in. The group from the Lithia chain of car dealerships have teamed up to give back to the university that has provided so much for Grand Forks.

Meet The Guys

Donnie Raybourn

Greg Creager

Tony Telken

Roger Johnson

It all started with Roger Johnson, who moved to Grand Forks from his home state of Oklahoma to revive a struggling Lithia Ford Lincoln dealership. “When I first came here seven years ago, these stores were struggling. Everyone was huddled around the TV on Saturday and I thought we worked on Saturdays,” Johnson said. “But everyone said ‘yeah, but the Sioux are playing’. And I’m like ‘who in the heck are the Sioux?’. That’s kind of how I got involved with UND and finding out that we had to win over the community and winning over the community is getting involved in UND and all the schools. We do quite a bit with the community. As they help us, we help them.”

Tony Telken started at Lithia shortly after Roger took the helm of the Ford Lincoln branch. Telken, a graduate of UND, also saw the opportunity to give back to the university. For him, the decision was made easier by the fact that he was already an alumnus. “I think the university makes the town go around. Especially the hockey program, the football program is coming on,” he said. “Everybody revolves around the university, especially at sports time. What’s a better way to support the community and university than sending three student-athletes to school every year? It’s an awesome opportunity.”

Greg, who was born and raised in Oklahoma and had spent time in Texas. He also worked for a different Lithia store in the past. He says that helping the community is one of the things Lithia tries to do across all their stores. “One thing Lithia does, even though we are a large company, we got 186 stores across the USA. We’re in communities all over that are like Grand Forks,” he said. “The kind of community that fits that size, demographics and one thing that we try to do as a company is get involved in the community and help support the communities that support us. With UND being the heartbeat of this community, there is not a better opportunity for us to try and get in and get involved and help them.”

The generosity between the four individuals grew exponentially as time wore on, so much so that Champions Club created a new level just for the folks at Lithia. The Dynasty Level Membership is a $75,000 per year contribution to Champions Club. Previously, Lithia had donated enough to account for two scholarships for UND student-athletes. Now, they are able to do three scholarships at the Dynasty Level.

“I just think as the athletes are competitive in everything they do, we’re competitive in everything we do,” Telken said. “So if we get a chance to do something first and we can make it happen, that’s awesome. Roger had the idea that we could step our game up a bit from the Legend Level to the Dynasty Level and we got the newer GMs on board, awesome.”

“We talked and decided that donating three scholarships, neither one of us hesitated,” Johnson added. “We all said ‘yes, let’s do it’. When we give back to the community, it’s because they give back to us.”

The Dynasty Level also comes with a level of benefits unseen by other levels of Champions Club. You can find those benefits on the left.

Obviously, none of these men are originally from Grand Forks. In fact, three of them grew up outside of North Dakota. So why give so much back to the University of North Dakota? What is so special about Grand Forks to these four men? The answer is one that rings true across the entire state.

“When I came up here seven years ago, the weather just about destroyed me,” said Johnson. “I didn’t come from this part of the world, but it’s the people. I have not met people like the ones here, everybody is just the friendliest people I’ve met. That’s what won me over and I’ll stay here until I retire.”

Both Greg and Donnie agree wholeheartedly with Roger’s assessment. “100 percent, first-class people,” said Raybourn. “I haven’t been here very long, but day one they make you feel like you’re home,” said Creager.

For Tony, who is a native of North Dakota, it was his passion for the university that glued him to this community. “The university is what kept me here. There’s plenty going on at the university,” he said.

With this variance in backgrounds and hometowns, how do these guys come together for the betterment of their stores and the community? One could argue that hard-headedness would prevail with four different men, from four different walks of life. However, they work together in seamless unison, all for their community at large.

“The three of us all do a great job of embracing Lithia’s core values,” said Creager. “First, earn customers for life, taking ownership, having fun and then constantly improving. Those are the four core values of Lithia and the three of us embrace it and kind of eat it, breathe it and sleep it on a daily basis. “

“The employees are first. They are treated the same way if they are from my store or Roger’s or Greg’s,” said Raybourn. “If they have a customer that wants a car and they have a relationship with that customer, they can sell any car on the campus. That is good for a lot of customers. They don’t want to go to another dealership. They might be at another store, but they want a Ford, so they come down here and get a Ford. There are interchanging parts between us and that’s because we want to put our employees and customers first.”

Just like the Fighting Hawks on the field, court or ice, the team at Lithia of Grand Forks have worked together to succeed. They have propelled their stores forward and have reciprocated it back into the community. For four guys who never grew up in Grand Forks, it takes a lot of generosity and kind-heartedness to donate what they have to the University of North Dakota. Forget about how many cars they have sold, that alone is beyond commendable.

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Dynasty Club Members?

  • One reserved Dynasty underground parking space at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
  • Exclusive title sponsor for Champions Club Golf Tour, including two complimentary teams at each stop.
  • Three leadership sessions with UND head coaches of your choice.
  • Two complimentary “Best Seats in the House” for football, men’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball season tickets.
  • Three named Scholarships and invitation to the Champions Builders Reception.
  • Lithia logo printed on football parking passes, in Champions Club brochure map and on parking banners.
  • Lithia logo included in the 2019-20 Champions Club Membership Guide.
  • Lithia logo embroidered/decals on “Best Seats in the House” in the REA and Alerus Center (2 seats each).
  • Lithia logo on the Champions Club website.
  • Your business’ ad in three issues of the Alumni Review (1 full-page color ad per issue) reaching over 92,000 alumni and friends.
  • Three reserved parking signs/spots in the Diamond parking area at the REA & Alerus Center.
  • Two tables at the 2019 Champions Ball, which include 16 guests and 4 student-athletes.
  • 15% discount at the Sioux Shop.

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Written by Nolan Schmidt

Nolan is the Editor of Fighting Hawks Magazine. He is originally from Bismarck, ND and is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. Outside of work, Nolan loves to write fiction short stories, among other things.

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