By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Wrapping up their collections from residents and outside donors on May 26, the day after Memorial Day, financial results from the Village of Oxford Police Department fundraiser benefiting the Polly Ann Trail far exceeded anyone’s expectations.
“Excluding probably one more truckload, we’re at right about $25,000 right now,” Trail Manager Linda Moran shared on June 15. “I think we’ll end up somewhere between $27,000-28,000 for the final number.”
Initially hoping to raise a few hundred dollars for the trail, which has suffered from funding cuts as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, these breathtaking results were the perfect storm of the Oxford community coming together, the state’s then-closure of bottle returns, and a helping hand from Powers Distributing, an Orion-based business that dates back to 1939.
“I never, ever expected anything like this,” Moran said. “I was overwhelmed, it’s been fabulous. And, Powers has been such a wonderful group of guys to work with. They’ve been helping us out, bending over backwards to make sure everything went smoothly. It’s been wonderful.”
The bottle and can donations, collected at the Oxford Village Police garage located at 22 W. Burdick, were sorted into separate categories based on their plastic or metal makeup by Moran and a large team of local volunteers.
Accumulating between 270,000-280,000 returnable items, taking these back to a grocer would have been a time-consuming process, especially with Michigan law limiting bottle returns to $25 per visit.
This is where Powers Distributing came in. Instead of forcing Moran and her team of volunteers to take all these items to Meijer, which was the original plan, Powers wrote the Polly Ann Trail a check for the amount collected and took the returnable items away in their semi-trucks.
With two large tasks to tackle on her to-do list, a culvert repair in Orion Township and addressing the rooting problem behind the Frosty Boy in Oxford, Moran now has the necessary funds to move ahead with these projects, as well as a potential surplus for future use.
“The culvert repair is going to run us about $10,000 and so will the Frosty Boy,” Moran divulged. “We actually have to take out a large section of the pavement and make sure it’s safe underneath, so the roots don’t grow back, and this happens again.”
Always lending a helping hand to those in the community, the involvement of the Village Police went far beyond simply providing their garage for storage. Chief Mike Solwold helped Moran come up with the idea for this type of fundraiser and was blown away by the show of support, too.
“I just got to thinking, because of the pandemic, everyone is going to be having shortfalls this year,” Solwold said.
“A lot of the food banks were doing pretty well because everyone was really donating to them a lot and they were still getting their grants because food pantries, those type of needs, were really at the forefront.
“I wanted to do a bottle drive because no one was taking bottles at the time, so I thought this would be the perfect time to do. Since FISH and a lot of those guys were getting what they needed, I was having a conversation with Linda (Moran) out in the garage and she was explaining to me how she wasn’t getting her grants and was having a tough time raising funds because of COVID-19. I told her about wanting to do a bottle drive and we could store the bottles here at the garage.
“It was becoming an issue because people were having them stack up at their houses, in their garages, and had no where to put them. I told Linda, ‘Let’s go and get a picture of you on the trail and I’ll put it on our Facebook site, and we’ll see how it goes.’
“I thought we would make a few hundred bucks. I had no idea it was going to be anything like this.”
A 27-year veteran of the department, Solwold and his staff operate with an open-door policy and are willing to help their residents in any way possible.
“Everybody has a need. Anything we can do raise money for these organizations, we’re going to do it,” he said. “Even if it’s just a buck, we’ll take, we’ll stretch it, we’ll do what we need to do with it. I think our garage we have here at the department is a gem because the community is able to use it, as well.
“When the COVID started, I had people in the community that needed a central drop-off spot for the materials to make the face shields, the high school robotics team uses it, the chamber has parked their parade floats in there, the Polly Ann Trail uses it, we’ve had concerts in there for Concerts in the Park when it rains, anything we can do to help out the community, we’re going to do it.”
By Teddy Rydquist