(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Project Pay It Forward (PPIF) is a charitable fundraising initiative created in 2016 by the Great Lakes family of businesses that includes Great Lakes Fusion, Great Lakes Ready Mix, Great Lakes Fabrication & Machining, Great Lakes Precast Products and Great Lakes Rental & Supply. In 2016, the group, which is comprised mainly of Great Lakes employees, donated Thanksgiving meals to 22 Shiawassee County families and 25 bicycles to children in Shiawassee County.
This year, the PPIF team blew those respectable 2016 totals out of the water. With the help of additional fundraising events, PPIF was able to donate Thanksgiving meals – complete with a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, rolls, et al – to 40 local families. And then on Sunday, Dec. 17, the PPIF team presented new bicycles to a whopping 63 Shiawassee County children.
The youngsters and their families picked the bikes up at the Vernon Fire Hall, where they were greeted by PPIF team members and Santa. Eight-year-old Hunter Lunsford, a student at Robert Kerr Elementary in Durand, was one of the first to pick up his bike on Dec. 17. After finding his flashy black, white and blue bicycle, complete with blue chrome pegs, Hunter was more than happy to pose for a picture with those in attendance. Hunter can be seen (holding bike) with family members Tim Lunsford, Katie Trudell and Tara Feig; along with Santa and PPIF team members.
In addition to the substantial Thanksgiving and Christmas donations, the Great Lakes family also bought approximately $2,000 worth of pork and beef during the Jr. Livestock Auction at the Shiawassee County Fair in August, which they then donated to the Shiawassee Hunger Network.
The biggest addition the Great Lakes family made to its fundraising effort in 2017 was the creation of a heavy equipment rodeo. More than 150 spectators packed the Great Lakes site near Vernon for the rodeo in September, as 24 confident, experienced equipment operators were humbled by the difficult challenges presented. Looking to expand the popular event for 2018, the PPIF team is contemplating adding a children’s rodeo, though planning is still in the early stages.
Money was raised in a number of other ways as well. The Great Lakes employees hold raffles during their weekly safety meetings, with the proceeds benefiting PPIF. They also held a golf outing and a casino bus trip. In addition to providing several practical services and products to the residents of Shiawassee County, the Great Lakes family has gone out of its way to look out for the less fortunate members of our community. Stay tuned in 2018 as The Independent continues to follow the charitable efforts of the Great Lakes family and PPIF.