When Delores and Jerry Luis opened Iverson Motors Company more than 30 years ago, they had no idea how many lives they would change. Yet these high school sweethearts have built their lives around giving back to others and are known throughout the community for their kindness and generosity.
Both Delores and Jerry grew up during the Great Depression and learned at an early age that community can make a difference in the lives of others. Jerry’s father owned a mercantile in Orcutt, and he recalls how his dad never failed to give to those in need.
“The store was near railroad tracks, and there were many folks who had fallen on hard times back then,” Jerry said. “They had nothing and they were hungry. My father always gave them something to eat, and I remember how just a piece of bread and bologna made all the difference to someone.”
With philanthropy as a core value, the Luises' focus is on community, education, health and wellness. Their dedication ranges from youth development, to raising funds for cancer awareness, to improving and enriching the lives of senior citizens.
Delores spent more than 20 years working at the Santa Maria Public Library and is still known around town as “The Librarian.” A natural leader, her dedication to community includes serving on the board of directors at GenSpan, the Minerva Club and Oasis Senior Center. Given her passion for reading and learning, Delores believes that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue education and wholeheartedly supports the Minerva Club’s Scholarship Program. The couple also proudly support St. Joseph High School and give generously at the annual Joe White Memorial Dinner.
Over three decades, Iverson Motor Company has exemplified selflessness and philanthropy. Using this venue, the Luises and their employees hosted countless “parking lot barbecues” and became the go-to business for community advice and support. At over 6 feet tall, Jerry has a commanding presence, but his most defining trait is his humility.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Jerry said. “We can, so we do.”
This seemingly simple statement is how the Luises have contributed to building philanthropic leadership. Through their example, many of their former employees continue to give back to the community and, for many years, the dealership has been a sponsor of the Elks Rodeo. Jerry, a longtime member of the Elks, served as a community mentor by supporting the recreation program and annual rodeos and parades.
Proud of their parents’ work, and staying true to the family tradition of involvement, the Luises’ daughters, Jody and Doreen, contribute and give back to their communities in a myriad of ways. Jody, who happens to live next door to Delores and Jerry, enjoys hosting the weekly pancake breakfast at Oasis Senior Center.
While they support a multitude of nonprofits and civic organizations in Santa Maria Valley, Oasis Senior Center has their hearts. Along with Alice Shaw and Ken Parker, Jerry’s parents, Anita and Cerfee Luis, were instrumental in the development of Oasis, the largest senior center in northern Santa Barbara County. Oasis started out with only two buildings and now boasts five. Warm and welcoming, the center is a place where seniors can dance, play bridge, exercise, take arts and crafts classes, learn new things and make new friends.
“We are so honored to have been able to help the center grow,” Delores said.
Delores and Jerry attend as many fundraisers as they can and buy tables for their friends.
“Seeing the good happen makes us happy,” Delores said. “We want to share that joy with as many people as possible.”
Another one who has had the benefit of Delores and Jerry’s kindness is their dog, Clark. A sweet and happy rescue, Clark is also well-known in the community. He loves to visit the groundskeeper at the golf course behind their home where Delores said he gets “lots of love and treats.”
Clark was once “arrested” for roaming the community and was given a ride home in a police car. Both Jerry and Delores laughed as they remembered seeing him sitting tall in the passenger seat as the car pulled up in their driveway.
“We love him. Dogs are family, you know,” said Delores.
Not surprisingly, the Luises support the Santa Maria Humane Society.
“Philanthropy is our life. As long as we are able, we will support the people and animals of Santa Maria,” said Delores, with Clark’s head resting in her lap.
As their 65th high school reunion approaches, Delores and Jerry Luis continue to celebrate their love for each other, their family and their community. With quiet resolve and dedication, they hold on to the values that shaped their lives -- caring about others, doing all you can and sharing what you have.
Editor's Note: Honorees will be recognized at this year’s Celebrate Philanthropy luncheon on Nov. 2 at the Santa Maria Country Club. Hosted by the Santa Barbara Foundation and sponsored by the Santa Maria Times, the annual event recognizes individuals, couples and families who have a proven record of philanthropy through financial support, civic and charitable responsibility and community leadership.