Kirtland AFB Nucleus: Vet’s charity-minded business wins award

Another great article about One Community Auto's recent big win in the American Small Business Championship, including an interview with Gary Peterson! The article was published in The Nucleus, the official newspaper of Kirtland Air Force Base . Click here to read the full story.

Vet’s charity-minded business wins award

Argen Duncan Nucleus editor, Apr 10, 2017

An Air Force veteran has received an award for his Albuquerque business, which is based on giving back to the community.

SCORE Association business mentoring program and Sam’s Club named One Community Auto LLC, owned by retired Maj. Gary Peterson, as a 2017 Small Business Champion last week.

Judges chose two winners from each state and Washington, D.C. Each of them receives a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card to buy supplies, as well as training on growing the business.

Criteria included supporting the community, a compelling story and creativity. The competition also involved online voting.

After the training in Dallas this month, judges evaluate the Small Business Champions based on how well they use the $1,000 gift card and tell their story. In September, three grand-prize winners will get $25,000 each to use for the business and community support.

“So that’s going to be exciting,” Peterson said.

One Community Auto takes donated vehicles, refurbishes them and resells them to support 15 charities with 60 percent of the proceeds. The charities are based in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.

Peterson said most organizations that take donated vehicles sell them at auction without any repairs. By working on the vehicles and selling them from his property at 300 Wyoming Blvd., just outside Kirtland Air Force Base’s Wyoming Gate, he brings in five to 10 times more money per car, he said.

“It’s a win-win for the donor and the charity,” Peterson said. “The donor gets a much higher tax deduction and the charity gets money, of course.”

The final sale price for a donated vehicle determines the size of the tax deduction the donor can claim for it.

Peterson also fixes and resells cars bought at auction so he can return those proceeds to the business to keep it afloat while he builds it. He has five employees, some of whom are veterans.

“We’re car nuts,” he said.

The charitable organizations One Community Auto supports range from veterans assistance groups Heroes Walk Among Us and Paws and Stripes to the East Mountain High School Foundation, First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. Peterson said most of the charities came to him.

Peterson, a native of Roswell, enlisted in the Air Force right after high school in 1990. He was stationed at Kirtland from 2004 until his retirement in 2013.

He worked in logistics and transportation with the 377th Air Base Wing, 58th Special Operations Wing and Air Force Inspection Agency.

The Air Force taught him from the beginning to be involved in the community, he said.

Just before he retired, Peterson saw a notice that the New Mexico Veterans Integration Centers needed help repairing its van. He worked on the vehicle but couldn’t fix it.

However, he noticed an old Camaro someone had donated to the VIC and offered to work on it and sell it. When he did, he made $4,000 for the organization.

With the idea of starting a business on that practice, he took a Boots to Business course and opened One Community Auto soon after his military retirement.

The business gets about five donated cars per month, but Peterson aims to increase that number to 50. He wants to become the hub for car donations in the metro area.

For more information about One Community Auto, visit


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