The Duffs Put the 'Giving' in the Term 'Giving Back'
'We Have a Sacred Responsibility'
Long before “giving back” became buzzwords, Jim and Tommy Duff - the owners of Southern Tire Mart and the recipients of this year's Tire Dealer of the Year Award - had fully embraced the practice as an outgrowth of their faith.
“We believe God has blessed us so much that it’s incumbent on us to help others,” says Tommy.
“When someone has been blessed and has the ability, he also has an obligation, in our opinion, to give back,” says Jim. “That’s more important than spending money on ourselves.”
The Duffs donate to a wide variety of organizations and charities.
Last year alone, they gave away $41.1 million to various groups and were ranked number 38 on The List of America’s Top 50 Donors, an annual compilation that’s put together by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and also includes such names as Michael Bloomberg, Bill and Melinda Gates and others.
The brothers are big supporters of the higher education system in their home state of Mississippi, giving to The University of Southern Mississippi, The University of Mississippi and other institutions.
A building at The University of Southern Mississippi, The Jim & Thomas Duff Athletic Center, bears their name, as will the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Center at The University of Mississippi that is expected to become one of the country’s leading STEM education facilities.
Each year, the Duffs donate new Freightliner trucks to four universities in Mississippi to transport football equipment. The trucks are wrapped in the universities’ colors and graphics. The Duffs even provide drivers for the trucks and pick up all expenses associated with their operation.
“Jim and I have always said that the problems in our state and this country are not about who has what and who doesn’t,” says Tommy. “They’re educational. People should have an education. And people should have the ability to do that, regardless of their means.
“Education transforms lives. It makes better families. It makes better employees. And if Jim and I can help in that, we think we’re doing good.”
“I didn’t do well in school,” reveals Jim. “I didn’t finish college. And I’ve competed during my whole adult life with people who are very educated. So education to me is very important. It brings me great satisfaction to give to our wonderful universities that will change people’s lives. That’s a good feeling for me.”
The Duffs also donate generously to the communities in which Southern Tire Mart stores operate, says Lindsey Schwaner, who leads the dealership’s marketing team.
In 2017, Baton Rouge, La., where Southern Tire Mart has a store, was devastated by flooding. “Nobody was prepared for it,” she says. “All of the Duff companies came up with a game plan to help our store there and also the community.
“We stuffed a Southern Tire Mart trailer. People donated clothes, food, gift cards — anything they could to help — and we sent the trailer to Baton Rouge.”
Southern Tire Mart employees drove in from “all over the country to assist,” she says. “They cleaned the store, houses — the whole community. And it wasn’t just our store managers. It was tire techs and other people.”
Each time a natural disaster hits, “we do the same thing.”
Southern Tire Mart also sends service trucks to help keep first responder vehicles like police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and public utility trucks up and running when disasters occur.
And Jim and Tommy are big boosters of their hometown of Columbia, Miss.
It is estimated that 15% of all jobs in Marion County, where Columbia is located, belong to Duff-related companies. “That was important to us because that’s where we grew up,” says Jim. “We want to give back wherever we can.”
“Jim and I understand that we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards,” says Tommy. “And we want to see our community and Mississippi prosper and succeed.”