Royal Oak City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas, a Royal Oak Civic Foundation trustee, prepares to make the first donation to the foundation’s Fight Local Hunger fundraising campaign. Donors have until March 1 to contribute to the fundraiser.

Royal Oak City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas, a Royal Oak Civic Foundation trustee, prepares to make the first donation to the foundation’s Fight Local Hunger fundraising campaign. Donors have until March 1 to contribute to the fundraiser.

Photo provided by the city of Royal Oak


New Royal Oak Civic Foundation focuses on hunger needs

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 23, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — The newly formed Royal Oak Civic Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, launched the week of Feb. 5 with an inaugural fundraiser to benefit three organizations: Blessings in a Backpack, the Open Hands Food Pantry and the Salvation Army.

The Fight Local Hunger fundraising campaign challenges donors to address local food insecurity issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donors have until March 1 to contribute to the fundraiser.

The effort aligns with the foundation’s mission to “improve the city’s health, safety and cultural opportunities by inspiring the philanthropy of residents and business leaders to support a thriving, resilient community.”

The foundation will use up to $7,500 of a $16,000 donation from Robertson Homes to kick off the fundraiser.

Robertson Homes pledged $200 for each of the new homes sold at the Normandy Oaks development, located near Normandy Road and Delamere Boulevard, to the philanthropic effort. The foundation will match up to $2,500 of donations raised by each of the three organizations.

The charitable endeavor stems from the former ROOTS fund, a city committee that raised and managed money for the animal shelter, library, nature society, parks and recreation, seniors, commission for the arts, and the historical commission.

The City Commission created the Civic Foundation to receive gifts — individual and corporate donations, grants and bequests. It will continue to benefit nonprofit and civic organizations that serve the Royal Oak community.

“People love our city and want to contribute to its success,” Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier said in a prepared statement. “The foundation gives them a central place to do that. It creates an opportunity for everyone to be a philanthropist.”

Fournier added that the independent foundation can quickly respond to community needs by applying for deadline-limited grants and requirements that city government is not equipped to meet.

Julie Lyons Bricker, the city’s grants coordinator/energy and sustainability manager, will serve as the executive director of the foundation. Other board of trustees members include Tom McGannon, of Beaumont Health; City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas; Alex Fike, of United Way Worldwide; and Oakland Community College Chancellor Peter Provenzano.

The formal launch of the foundation includes the expansion of the board of trustees.

“Trustees govern the organization and help identify unmet needs in the community, but their primary task is to raise funds to support the foundation’s work,” said McGannon, board chair, in a prepared statement. “If you have an interest in such a role, please contact us. We would love to hear from you.”

Lyons Bricker said the most pressing community need right now is food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelley Lake, chairperson of the Royal Oak Blessings in a Backpack program, said her organization’s goal is to provide weekend food for students in the community. Any child who comes through Royal Oak Schools is eligible for its programs.

“It costs us about $20,000 a year to provide the food, and this year, for the first time, we delivered food throughout the whole summer,” Lake said. “We provide a variety of things for six meals during a weekend.”

The Rev. Beth Taylor, of the Open Hands Food Pantry, which is located in the lower level of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Woodward Avenue, south of 11 Mile Road, said the organization has been operating out of the same location for almost 40 years.

“Our mission is to serve people in need, to feed the hungry, and that need has become even more crucial, even more urgent in these months since the pandemic (began),” Taylor said. “In pre-COVID times, we served about 13,000 a year. If we stay on trend, by the end of the year, we will have served 20,000 people with hunger relief in our community — that’s a 50% increase.”

Lt. Heidi Strand, pastor of the Salvation Army Royal Oak Citadel, said use of the Salvation Army’s food program slowed down for a time; however, it has recently shot back up.

“We are serving about 75 to 80, and we are expecting that those numbers will continue to climb,” Strand said. “We are fully expecting that, into the new year, our numbers are going to start climbing quickly as unemployment runs out, as stimulus money runs out, that people are having a hard time meeting those basic needs, and we hear it on the phone every day.”

To contribute or learn more, visit romi.gov/rocf or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

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