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Philanthropist and businessman Don Smith leads Turlock's Independence Day parade
Don Smith practices his wave while sitting in the new Chevy Camaro that will make an appearance in the 4th of July parade, driven by his son Larry Smith.

The annual Fourth of July parade in downtown Turlock wouldn’t be complete without a Grand Marshal, an honorary title bestowed to a notable individual in the community. This year that honor was given to Don Smith, who will be leading the parade in a brand new red convertible Camaro.

“Unless we sell it between then and now,” laughed Don’s son Larry Smith at the family's car dealership earlier this week.

Don Smith’s family has owned an auto dealership in Turlock since 1926, and the majority of his involvement was when the dealership was located in downtown Turlock at 206 South Broadway. In 2001, the dealership relocated to its present day location off of Highway 99 and is presently run by Don’s sons, Lee and Larry.

While Don has come to be well-known in the community for the longevity of his family business, he has also become synonymous with philanthropy.  Smith has been recognized by Turlock Journal readers as the Best Community Role Model and was selected as the Citizen of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce’s Best of Turlock awards ceremony. Throughout several decades he has served on a variety of boards including the California State University, Stanislaus President’s Advisory Board, the CSUS Foundation Board, the Turlock Cemetery Association and Turlock Funeral Home Board of Directors. Don also served on the Emanuel Board of Directors from 1968-1973, as well as the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Board and has been an active member of the Turlock Exchange Club for many years.

So what does he think of his newest honorary title?

“It really is an honor, though I assumed it was the type of thing you received if you were around long enough,” quipped Smith. “But frankly, on a serious note, it is very nice to be honored.”

Perhaps the most striking of Smith’s contributions is his time spent working with the Salvation Army, both on the board and as a citizen. With his involvement dating back to the 1960s, Don helped spearhead the organization’s infamous bell ringing – still a Smith family tradition – and contributed to several programs including visiting rest homes in the community to support seniors without family and friends nearby.

“The work I have done with the Salvation Army is something that really stands out to me. I think it’s the most helpful thing I’ve done,” said Smith. “I’m proud of that as much as anything.”