Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy were both from Pennsylvania. In 1911, Aaron founded the Aaron DeRoy Car Co. and opened a Studebaker dealership, becoming the first Jewish auto-dealership owner. The couple came to Detroit in 1923, where Aaron opened a Hudson-Essex dealership and eventually other branches in the area. DeRoy, who gave generously to the community, served as chairman of the Allied Jewish Campaign, 1931 through 1933, during the very difficult depression years, years that were critical to the progress and accomplishment of Detroit’s Jewish community.
After his death in 1935, Helen DeRoy (1882-1977) took over the Aaron DeRoy Motor Car Company, carrying on the business with great financial acumen. Helen DeRoy was also a philanthropic soul. She knitted slippers and blankets for local hospitals and sent some overseas before WWII; she also 'adopted' several eastern European families to help them get safe passage to the U.S. After her husband's death, she donated funds in his memory as the catalyst for the construction of the Jewish Community Center, creating a lasting legacy. When she passed away in 1977, the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation was founded, as per her will. Since its founding, the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation has provided funding for thousands of projects that improve the quality of life and promote the well-being of individuals, primarily in the greater metropolitan Detroit community. Among the many organizations supported by the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation are the Helen L. DeRoy Residence Hall and the DeRoy Auditorium at Wayne State University, the Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archives of Temple Beth El, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Opera Theatre, JARC, Oakland Family Services, and the Detroit Zoo, a tradition that began in 1928 when Aaron DeRoy purchased the first two giraffes for the zoo.
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