# StrongerTogether campaign wins county award

By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer

The Oxford and Lake Orion Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) were recognized for the #StrongerTogether campaign at the Main Street Oakland County awards in Pontiac on the night of Thursday, May 5.

Oxford Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kelly Westbrook (left) and Lake Orion DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone with the best “Campaign for Main Street” awards at the Main Street Oakland County awards on Thursday, May 5. Oxford DDA Board Chair won the award for “Main Street Innovator.” Photo courtesy of Kelly Westbrook

The #StrongerTogether campaign was recognized as the best “Campaign for Main Street” by the event judges. The #StrongerTogether campaign was formulated after the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School as a way to bring the Oxford and Lake Orion downtowns closer — and, as the name suggests, stronger — together.

“The DDA is so honored to have won the Campaign for Main Street Award in partnership with Lake Orion DDA,” Kelly Westbrook, executive director of the Oxford DDA, said via text message. “This truly shows the strength of the partnership we have built and how valuable it has been at revitalizing our two towns.”

The #StrongerTogether campaign has been built around coinciding events in the two towns, starting the February with the #StrongerTogether IceFest, continuing through March with an Oxford and Lake Orion shopping pass and a letterboxing scavenger hunt between the downtowns.

A trolley running between Oxford and Lake Orion has been operating since mid-February and recently received funding from Lake Orion to continue operating into 2023. As of this printing, the trolley is out for repairs and is expected to be back in operation soon.

While most of the #StrongerTogether campaign occurred in the winter and early spring, Westbrook says the campaign will continue into the summer. Tuesday, June 17 will be the luau-themed Ladies’ Night across both Oxford and Lake Orion from 5-9 p.m.

“All the bars and restaurants are going to be serving fruity drinks and luau drinks,” Westbrook said. “We are both going to be doing the same thing in Lake Orion and Oxford, and we will have two check-in points and then you can jump on the trolley and ride back and forth.”

Outside of Ladies’ Night, the partnership will focus on promoting entertainment in the respective towns. The plan right now is to put out a post listing various events in the two towns and the trolley operating hours with the goal of getting more people to either event.

“We are trying to bring activities to get people into town,” Westbrook said.

Other Lake Orion nominations and awards:

Main Street Leader: Village Council President and DDA Board Member Kenneth Van Portfliet received this award in recognition of his dedication to downtown Lake Orion and commitment to the survivors of the residential fire at 35 N. Broadway.

“Mr. VanPortfliet worked tirelessly, and coordinated with numerous organizations to secure funding and necessities as quickly and effectively as possible,” according to a news release from the Lake Orion DDA.

Main Street Innovator: DDA Board Chair Debbie Burgess was nominated for this award for her “dedication to building a stronger community in downtown Lake Orion.”

“Burgess has been instrumental in fostering relationships between the DDA, community members and the village. Her resolute commitment to Downtown Lake Orion is a driving force behind the success of the district and the community as a whole,” the DDA stated.

Main Street Safe: The Lake Orion DDA was been nominated for this award in light of the efforts to safely provide a sense of normalcy during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Throughout the lockdown, the DDA exhausted every available resource to provide alternative activities and gathering spaces, which were compliant with social distancing guidelines, while still showing that the community was open for business.

Main Street Open: This nomination recognizes the efforts of the DDA to support local business during the height of the pandemic. The Lake Orion DDA secured funding for 54 businesses totaling $241,556 and an additional $8,500 in outdoor infrastructure, to facilitate the safe operation of community businesses during the lockdown.

Source: Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority

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