Out for Blood: Ken Lehman of Virginia Lube on Giving Back to the Community

This past August, during the “dog days” of summer, Ken Lehman, CEO of Virginia Lube and operator of the Jiffy Lube locations in the region, opted to do something a little different to draw in customers. Not once, but twice, he worked with the Virginia Blood Services to hold a blood drive and MDA fundraiser at two of his shops.

The first of these was held on August 7 at locations in Lynchburg and Forest, Virginia, while a second one was held a week later on August 14 at locations in Roanoke, Virginia. This coincided with Jiffy Lube’s MDA Muscle Up, a program to support MDA’s efforts to help kids and adults with muscular dystrophy, ALS and other related life-threatening diseases to live longer and grow stronger.

The Forest location, which also hosted a BBQ, maxed out on blood donations — something that made Lehman quite pleased.

“We don’t do enough to make a difference in our communities, and we need to start,” Lehman said. “I hope many franchisees can take away what I have taken away for years. As CEO of Virginia Lube, I’m working with other organizations in the area, and I want to let people know that we’re the place that does as much as it can for our communities.”

Lehman, who has been with Jiffy Lube for 25 years and also worked in the Midas for another five years, said it is his desire to work with the community, not only to provide a reliable and needed service, but to also build trust with customers. Giving back as often as he can, is just part of community relations.

“This goes back to when I lived in Milwaukee and was working with Midas,” Lehman explained. “We regularly worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, organized blood drives and supported other charities.”

Roots of Charity

While working with Midas, he said his location was one of the top stores in the city supporting the Go Red for Women campaign, the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.

This past summer’s blood drive was something he said he’d like to see more small businesses supporting, and for that reason offered a free oil change — a nearly $40 value — to customers willing to pay in blood rather than dollars.

“We wanted to support Virginia Blood Services, because everyone needs blood, and right now there is a terrible shortage,” Lehman explained. “So, you help with the blood, and we’ll help maintain the car.”

He added that the blood drives have taken time to get into high gear. Lehman started the first one about two years ago, and the turnout wasn’t what he had hoped it would be; there were only seven donors the first time, and just a dozen or so the second time.

However, that didn’t deter Lehman from trying again. In August, he opted to focus on just two locations each day — the first from 9 am until noon, and the second from 2 pm until 5 pm. The shops worked with local radio station WRVL, 88.3 The Journey — flagship station for The Journey Radio Network.

“The station did a live remote, and it really helped draw in customers,” Lehman said. “They made it clear that MDA was here and that we were doing a supporting BBQ. It ended up being quite huge, and we maxed out on blood donations, which is so good. We can’t understate the fact that one pint of blood can save three lives.”

Following the second drive, Lehman was told that the very blood he donated during the drive was on its way to the hospital, where it could very well make a difference between life and death.

“I plan to do more blood drives, at least every couple of months while the weather holds,” he said. “And every customer who is able to donate will get a free signature oil change, a $39.99 value — which is just the small way we can reward those customers who help us save lives.”

Beyond the Blood Drives

What also set Lehman’s efforts apart this past summer were that, in addition to the blood drives, the locations were also supporting Jiffy Lube’s MDA Muscle Up campaign.

In recent years, especially since the cancelation of the MDA Labor Day Telethon, muscular dystrophy has not been in the spotlight as much — but that doesn’t mean it has been cured.

“It isn’t in the spotlight, and that’s why we need to support the fundraising efforts. For Jiffy Lube, MDA is very important,” Lehman explained. “This is the seventh year we’ve been doing this. This raises money to send kids to camps, as well as to fund research for the cure. We wanted this to coincide with our blood drive and put the whole package together. That was why it was very successful this year.”

The desire to give back is something Lehman has always strived to do. However, it really picked up after his time working with Mark Smith, who runs four Richmond-area Midas car care franchises and uses his businesses to support numerous causes. Those include blood drives, which started after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when blood was in short supply.

“Mark is very involved in his community, and that has really inspired me,” said Lehman, who added that the service industry can play a key role in these types of activities. “I see this as everybody’s responsibility from service businesses, small retailers and even big box retailers. We can all do more.”

One of the driving motivations for Lehman is that today so many people are hurting. Even with record-low unemployment, there are those who simply can’t make ends meet. This is something he said he sees in Lynchburg, a city that has a poverty rate of 23.1 percent — which is 9.6 percent higher than the national poverty rate.

“It is important to me to raise awareness about the needs of our community,” Lehman said. “These small things that we do can help make things better in the community, and through it, society can be much happier. This is just the type of person I am, and I want to help as many people as I can. I wish more small businesses — really more businesses in general — would reach out and work with charitable organizations to make it a better place.”

That wish may become a reality. Just as Lehman said a colleague inspired him, it is already clear that others are just as motivated by his actions.

“We’ve been doing food drives around the holidays, offering discounts to our customers for helping donate a turkey for Thanksgiving or a ham for Christmas,” Lehman said. “There are so many people just willing to give what they can. We got the store managers excited, and now the techs on the floor are into it, too. Giving back just makes you feel good.”