March 20, 2013 - "With the service that they provide us, it's the least we can do."
Eric Stenberg and Dave Smith build the pavilion at the Orion Veterans Memorial. (click for larger version)
That's the reason Jerry Suzore gave as to why the Oxford-based Carport Structures Corporation donated a 20-foot-by-20-foot steel pavilion to the Orion Veterans Memorial.
The memorial hosts functions on the National Day of Prayer, Memorial Day, Patriot's Day in observance of the terrorist attacks on September 11, and in November to commemorate Veterans Day.
Memorial Board director Michael Sweeney said the four events draw between 200-300 people.
"It's an incredible asset in our community, not only to Orion but to the people who come from all over the region to the memorial," said Orion Township supervisor Chris Barnett. His board voted to waive $421 in permit and building fees for the memorial.
The need for a permanent structure was made clear, Barnett said, at last year's Veteran's Day service. "It was crazy. Normally they set up a tent, but it was so windy that day, there was concern the tent was going to blow over so they stationed people at each corner of the tent to hold it down."
Those worries will be a thing of the past now that Carport Structures has donated the steel pavilion.
It will be a better, nicer-looking, more permanent structure, and will not cost the Memorial board a single cent—thanks to the goodwill of Carport Structures
With yearly revenue of about $10 million, Carport Structures is a second-generation family-owned business. The company manufactures carports and carport-related products for multi-housing and commercial applications throughout the United States, fabricating steel from raw materials in their Oxford shop.
Carport Structures was formerly known as Cadillac Carports back in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jerry Suzore took over the business in the early 1990s, and subsequently expanded the company.
When Suzore took the helm in 1992, Carport went from serving the tri-state area to a national company serving the United States.
Suzore came into contact with the Orion Veterans memorial when two board members visited the Carport offices and explained the permanent structure they wanted assembled.
"They came and conveyed what they were looking to do. At that point we said we'd be interested in helping, and offered our product and our services to help make it happen quicker.
"Former Marine and engineer Jeff Deller and his team quickly designed it, got it approved, went to the building department and got the permit, and we just decided as a group to make it happen for them," said Suzore.
Few would object to giving the veterans such a large gift, estimated to be about $25,000 in material and labor.
Why did Carport Structures forgo profit and choose to donate their products and services?
Suzore didn't hesitate: "Simply because I'd be more than honored to have our structure standing there servicing them. It wasn't out of any need for a tax break or anything like that."
Suzore said the decision was made almost immediately.
The memorial board "came in and told us what they were looking to do. The engineer (Jeff Deller of NORAM Service Group) happened to be in my office and as soon as the veterans told us the story of what they were trying to accomplish, we looked at each other and we knew we were going to try and make it happen."
Sweeney was direct with his appreciation for Carport Structure's professionalism and largesse.
Because of its small budget, the memorial board didn't "have the money to pay for it," Sweeney admitted. "We would have had to pass." However, thanks to the efforts of everyone, "everything fell into place," he added.
"It will be the nicest one around," said park manager Robert Watros.
About 11 feet at the peak, the steel pavilion will also have a faux-wood floor and stone base to match the boundaries of the memorial plaza.
Since its inception back in 1993, the Orion Veterans Memorial has been a community-wide labor of love. More than $900,000 has been raised through fundraising efforts.
The latest gift has now come from Oxford –based Carport Structures.
"In 10, 15, 20, or 25 years there will be a new crew, and let them add what they want," Sweeney said. "But as far as we're concerned, we feel this completes this twenty-year project."