Editor’s Note: After this story was published, FISH President Laurene Baldwin called to inform us that due to some delays in the new pantry project, all of the dates contained in the below story will be changing. She will advise us what the new dates are when they’ve been determined and we will share them with our readers. “Stay tuned,” she said.
Two dates destined to become milestones in the annals of Oxford-Orion FISH history are fast approaching.
The first is Wednesday, Sept. 26.
That’s when the nonprofit is planning to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at its new 5,000-square-foot food pantry located at 1060 S. Lapeer Rd., just south of Drahner Rd., in Oxford Township. The event will run from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
“I can’t wait for everybody to see it. It’s wonderful,” said FISH President Laurene Baldwin.
The second date is Monday, Oct. 1.
That’s when FISH plans to officially open the doors and begin providing free groceries to hungry clients from its new location.
These dates are subject to change as a certificate of occupancy must still be obtained from the township.
Baldwin is inviting folks to attend the Sept. 26 event, tour the facility and celebrate the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the group’s history.
“We encourage anybody and everybody to come,” she said. “We are extremely proud of it. I don’t think our feet have hit the ground yet. It’s marvelous. We would love (for) our community to see it. We’re looking forward to it.”
The building, which formerly housed Tool Sport & Sign Co., is owned by Addison Township resident Dan Davis.
In January, FISH signed a lease agreement with Davis, who purchased the building to house the charity’s pantry and offices.
Davis, who also owns and operates Royal Roofing in Orion Township, agreed to donate the money to FISH to completely cover the cost of the lease, which includes utilities, maintenance and property taxes.
He’s also paying for all of the improvements to the interior and exterior in order to transform the building into a functional and attractive space that meets FISH’s needs now and in the future.
Davis’ intention is to pay for everything, so the new facility doesn’t cost FISH a dime.
“He’s just an angel from heaven,” Baldwin said. “We’re overwhelmed (by) the goodness of his heart.”
“Beautiful” and “absolutely phenomenal” were the words she used to describe the new space.
“He’s truly done just a remarkable job with it,” Baldwin said. “I think it’s very homey. Our clients love the homeyness of our pantry here in Thomas and I think this has the same feeling.”
Since 2005, the pantry has been housed in an 1,800-square-foot former community hall located at 487 First St. in Thomas, a little unincorporated village in the northern part of Oxford Township near the Lapeer County line.
Thomas United Methodist Church sold the old community hall, built in 1949, to FISH for the token sum of $1.
Since 1973, FISH has been providing free food to families, individuals and senior citizens, who are living on low or fixed incomes, or who have fallen on hard times due to job loss, illness and other personal crises.
In 2017, FISH distributed 181,890 pounds of food to an average of 164 households, or 369 individuals, per month. The group added 93 families to its client base last year.
FISH serves the residents of Oxford, Orion and Addison townships and their respective villages, along with a small portion of Oakland Township. Its motto is “Neighbors helping neighbors.”
Baldwin noted FISH plans suspend operations at its existing pantry from Sept. 13-30 to accommodate moving to the new facility.
All FISH clients have been notified, she assured, and encouraged to “stock up” by taking the full amount of food they’re entitled to along with extra groceries that don’t count as part of their monthly allotment because they’re either expired or overstock.
“Hopefully, they will plan wisely and be OK,” Baldwin said.
FISH is a 100-percent, volunteer-run organization. Nobody receives a paycheck. All donations are tax deductible.
For more information about FISH, visit the website or call (248) 628-3933.