By C.J. Carnacchio
Oxford Leader Editor
A sign representing hope, help and old-fashioned neighborly compassion was added to the M-24 corridor last week.
It was the sign advertising Oxford-Orion FISH’s new pantry location at 1060 S. Lapeer Rd., just south of Drahner Rd. in Oxford Township.
The pantry is not yet open for business as there’s still much work to be done before the 5,000-square-foot building – which formerly housed Tool Sport & Sign Co. – is ready to serve the community by combating hunger.
But things are moving right along and the goal is for FISH to move in later this year.
“Everything’s roughed in. Now, it’s just a matter of finishing things,” said Addison Township resident Dan Davis, the building’s owner. “All the rough work is done. We’ve had our electrical inspection (and) had our plumbing inspection. Now, we’ve got to get the walls up (and) get it painted. It’s coming together better than I had anticipated.”
His goal is to make sure people “have a warm feeling when they walk in.” Davis said that’s what FISH Board Member Ron Wood told him was important when this project first began and he considered those words to be his “marching orders.”
“It’s going to be beautiful – nice and roomy,” said FISH President Laurene Baldwin. “It’s everything we could have ever dreamt of having. It’s wonderful.”
“I think the new place is fabulous,” said FISH Treasurer Randy Gower. “It’s invigorating to (know) our organization (will) exist in such a beautiful location. I think our clients will be well-served (at) this location. I think the progress has been remarkable and I applaud Dan and his crew.”
In January, FISH signed a lease agreement with Davis, who purchased the building to house the nonprofit organization’s food pantry and offices.
Davis, who 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, 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.
“I’m blessed to be able to help them,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine this is happening to our organization,” Baldwin said. “It’s a real gift.”
“We’re very blessed,” said FISH Board Member Sue Hackstock. “I’m speechless. It’s amazing.”
The new building will provide FISH with significantly more space than it currently has.
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. The Thomas United Methodist Church sold the hall, built in 1949, to FISH for the token sum of $1.
Having 5,000 square feet of space from which to feed and serve the community is both exciting and a little intimidating to Baldwin.
“I was just standing here thinking, ‘I hope we can fill it,’” she said. “I’m sure we will.”
According to Davis, approximately 2,300 square feet of the new facility will consist of shopping space where FISH clients can personally select food for themselves and their families.
The rest of the building will be used for storage, offices, unloading food and carrying out FISH’s special projects, including packing Easter and Thanksgiving dinner baskets and stuffing brand-new backpacks with school supplies for Oxford and Lake Orion students.
Since 1973, FISH has been providing free emergency groceries 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.”
FISH is a 100-percent, volunteer-run organization. Nobody receives a paycheck. All donations are tax deductible.
For more information about FISH, please visit www.oxfordorionfish.org or call (248) 628-3933.