Charles “Chuck” Rider had planned a big used-car sale for Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001. But before it could come, the unthinkable happened. So instead of pitching cars, he used the event and its live radio broadcast to ask for donations for 9/11 rescue workers and victims’ families, eventually sending a truck load of supplies to New York.
Rider, a business owner and philanthropist who was always ready to help those in need — both locally and across the country — died Friday. He was 64.
“He had all of the nice qualities you would want,” said Chuck Niedermyer, the local Salvation Army chapter’s longtime captain. “He liked to think about other people. He was a community-minded person.”
Niedermyer met Rider in the days after 9/11, when the businessman reached out to local charitable organizations, told them his plan and offered to let them up set tables in his car dealership to collect donations for their relief programs.
Rider later became a member of the local Salvation Army’s board of directors. It was just one of a number of boards he would join and charities he would support. He also served for a time on the State College Area school board.
“He personally touched me in a lot of different ways,” said Niedermyer, who has since retired from the organization. “He was a mentor for the Salvation Army.”
Rider used the family-owned car dealership that bore his name to help those in need again in 2005. He organized relief efforts here after Hurricane Katrina and sent a number of trucks full of supplies to the battered Gulf Coast.
He was awarded the Centre County United Way Barbara and James Palmer Award for Extraordinary Philanthropy in 2007 partly for those efforts.
“I thought he was a sweet and kind man,” said Ellie Beaver, then the local United Way executive director. “He cared about the community and wanted to help. He did all he could. He was generous with his money.”
Niedermyer described Rider as a family man who loved his children, cherished his friends and never balked at the opportunity to help someone in need.
He was known to make anonymous donations to local families who were victims of fires or other disasters.
“What stands out is he was quite a humble man about it,” Niedermyer said. “He liked to remain under the radar and just do it. There were occasions where he would get a cashiers check, make it out to a family and it would just be an anonymous check.”
Rider operated the dealerships until the late 2000s. It was a business he inherited from his parents, Charles and Jeanne Rider, also noted philanthropists who gave the Rose Building at 112 S. Burrowes St. to Penn State. The 6,888-square-foot building, then valued at $415,000, was later renamed the Rider House.
Niedermyer said even in the past four years, when Rider had been ill, the man never stopped giving. When Niedermyer’s own wife was in the hospital, he saw Rider there donating time.
“Who was sitting there, but Chuck,” Niedermyer said. “He was going to make the most of his time while he was here. Volunteering at Mount Nittany (Medical Center) was one small example of that.
“He wanted to help,” Niedermyer said.