By Jim Newell
Many people know him as “Bruce the Homeless Guy” or simply as Bruce, the resident Lake Orion wanderer who, for the past 16 years, sleeps wrapped in a sleeping bag and plastic behind the Kmart at E. Clarkston and Lapeer roads.
But Bruce Gertz is now in his early sixties and the cold Michigan winters can mete out a cruel toll.
While Bruce is currently in a local hotel, a grassroots effort to help keep him warm and fed is underway, and organizers of the endeavor need a little help to keep Bruce in a hotel room until the weather warms.
A small group of Orion residents have started a GoFundMe page to raise money to keep Gertz off the streets until spring. As of Monday, they had raised $3,330 of the $5,000 goal.
“He’s asking for the end of April, if he possibly can,” said the person who organized the effort and asked to remain anonymous. “If there is anything left over from this year, we’re going to continue doing this next year and keep funds in a separate account for him. He chose to live that way for 15-plus years, but I don’t think he took into account his age when it gets this cold.”
Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett has been involved in the case, and at the board of trustees meeting on Monday thanked the organizers who are helping Bruce.
“Why do we care? Because that’s what defines our community,” Barnett said. “The bottom line is our community cares like no other.”
So far, there has been 93 donations ranging from $5-$100 on the Let’s Help Bruce GoFundMe page,
Bruce also has a Facebook page entitled Bruce of Orion, where people can check for regular updates on when he receives food donations and how he is faring.
Over the years, Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputies at the Orion substation have also “adopted” Bruce, with many deputies donating from their own pockets to help out, Barnett said.
Some area businesses, such as Northern Flooring and Interiors on M-24, also serve as drop-off locations for anyone who wishes to donate food.
Visit the Bruce of Orion page for more information on donations and drop-off locations.
Organizers of the effort said Gertz likes chicken soup (the pop top variety), beef stew (pop top), canned corn and carrots (pop top), eggs, hot dogs and ketchup, TV dinners (chicken, turkey or steak) tomato sauce (not soup or paste), frozen orange juice (in the tube) and bottled water.
And while the effort has been lauded as Lake Orion taking care of one of its own, there also have been a few detractors on social media questioning whether this was forced upon Bruce.
“He went willingly, no one had to force him,” said GoFundMe organizers, adding that initially there was some ridicule and questions about how the money would be spent.”It’s amazing: there are people from Imlay City and Lapeer who know Bruce and want to help.”
By Jim Newell