Volunteers sought for work session at Leonard mill

An opportunity to do some volunteer work and help preserve an iconic piece of local history is happening in the Village of Leonard next week.

Folks are being sought to help spruce up the historic mill/grain elevator, both inside and out, on Saturday, May 19. The work session will begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon.

Village President Mike McDonald is encouraging people to bring work gloves, safety glasses and a positive attitude. Free doughnuts and coffee will be provided.

Volunteers are needed to fill planters with flowers, do some cleanup work inside the mill and make sure everything’s sealed and safe following the long winter.

“If we have enough manpower there, we can trim (off) the portion of the beanery that’s sticking out,” McDonald noted. “We want to make it look nicer – square things up, so to speak.”

The old beanery, which used to be attached to the mill, was demolished in 2015 because it was an eyesore and structurally unsound.

Leonard continues to seek funds to bring the mill’s stone foundation up to snuff, which is the top priority these days.

Portions of it had to be shored up after they had weakened and collapsed. To fix the foundation and restore it in a way that maintains the historic integrity of the building will cost $30,000 to $40,000. “That was the last estimate that we had,” McDonald said.

Earlier this year, Leonard received a $10,000 donation from the Cooper Standard Foundation. This money, along with a previous $5,000 contribution from ITC, has been set aide to improve the mill’s foundation.

McDonald indicated Leonard is exploring many options to obtain the rest of the money, from grants to fund-raisers.

“We need to find a benefactor and get things moving,” he said.

Constructed in the late 1800s, Leonard’s mill/grain elevator ceased operations in 2004.

A combination of time, the elements and neglect took quite a toll on the building, both inside and out, and the mill languished for many years. Community efforts to save it began in 2010.

The village purchased the 0.28-acre mill site – located at E. Elmwood and Division streets – in May 2014. A mix of municipal funds and grant money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was used.

In 2015, the mill was topped with a new corrugated metal roof to help protect it from further decay.

Fund-raising efforts to pay for the mill’s restoration are ongoing. Because of Leonard’s very limited budget, the project relies entirely on grants, donations and volunteer elbow grease to keep moving forward.

A crowdfunding page entitled “Save the Leonard Elevator/Mill,” started in August 2015, continues collecting money at GoFundMe.com.

To date, $1,515 has been donated.

The plan is to someday transform the site into the Leonard Mill Park, complete with restroom facilities, bicycle racks and fix-it-stations, picnic area, benches, landscaping, drinking fountains and a display to educate visitors about local history.

It’s hoped that restoring the mill and creating the park will become an economic generator for Leonard and the surrounding area by drawing people via the Polly Ann Trail.

Used by walkers, runners, hikers, bicyclists, nature-lovers and horseback riders, the 16.9-mile trail runs through Addison, Oxford and Orion townships as well as the villages of Leonard and Oxford.

According to McDonald, Leonard is working hard to foster a community identity that’s closely associated with the popular trail and historic mill. “They’re some of our best features – aside from our residents,” he said.


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