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Garmin donates $38K to local causes

Five nonprofit groups were each presented checks for $7,600 by Garmin International executive and Addison Township resident Rob Guzanek (blue shirt, center). To find out why, read the story on Page 2. Pictured (from left) are: Chloe and Jessica Moore, John Jarvis, Bob Riley, Jeanne DiCicco, Earl Caron and Laurie Lavins. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 10, 2013 - Five nonprofit groups dedicated to enhancing the lives of low-income folks, senior citizens, homeless dogs and individuals with special needs got a $38,000 boost Monday.

Oxford-Orion FISH, Christmas in Action (Northeast Oakland County), Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Oxford Special Olympics and Last Day Dog Rescue were each presented a check for $7,600, courtesy of Garmin International, at the 24th Street Sports Tavern in downtown Oxford.

Garmin is a worldwide provider of navigation, communication and information devices and applications. The company raised $38,000 through its Second Annual Technology Show and Golf Outing held in June at the Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Orion Township.

"The common thread between these charities is that they're all grassroots organizations run by members of our community," said Addison resident Rob Guzanek, who's a marketing manager for Garmin. "They're also organizations that members of the Garmin team here in Detroit volunteer with."

Guzanek explained that "a lot of the money" that's typically donated to large national charities "goes into salaries and other things."

"You don't see the impact (of your donation) like you would with smaller, grassroots organizations. And that's what we really look for," he said. "(The money) we raise, we want to be able to maximize (the good it does) within the community. The impact that it has on these organizations is tremendous.

"You can donate $100,000 to United Way, but are you going to be able to drive through your community and see the impact? With these (local groups), you can."

Christmas in Action (CIA) is a program through which volunteers complete free home repairs and improvements in order to allow low-income senior citizens to remain safe, warm and independent in their own homes. Around here, CIA works on homes in Oxford, Addison, Orion and Oakland townships.

"This is fantastic for us," said CIA Board Member Earl Caron, referring to Garmin's donation. "It will allow us next year to do probably four homes. This is major for us."

CIA Board Member Bob Riley noted this money will allow the group to purchase the necessary materials to do roof replacements.

"Just about everybody seems like they need a (new) roof," he said. "Because of this additional money from Garmin, we can consider giving roofs to people now, whereas before we couldn't do that."

"We're just very grateful to have Garmin around and for Rob Guzanek to be involved in the community the way he is," Riley added.

Since 1973, Oxford-Orion FISH has been providing free emergency groceries to families, individuals and senior citizens, who are living on either a low or fixed income, or have fallen on hard times due to job loss, illness or other personal crisis. Last year, FISH distributed 169,269 pounds of food and served 436 families or 1,156 individuals.

For FISH, Garmin's $7,600 donation will help run its food pantry for two to three months, according to President John Jarvis.

He said it will be used to cover the building's operational expenses and pay for perishable food items such as meat and eggs.

Jarvis called Garmin's donation "one of the more outstanding gifts" that FISH receives during the course of a year.

"It's sizeable," he said. "It sort of blew my mind. It's an awful lot of money. We're extremely thankful for it."

Located at 1223 Brauer Rd. in Metamora Township, Banbury Cross provides therapeutic riding and equine-related activities that are uniquely designed for people with cognitive, physical, emotional and social disabilities.

As students of all ages learn more about horsemanship and basic equine care, they receive the added benefits of improved balance, mobility, muscle tone, coordination and posture, plus enhanced independence, increased concentration and elevated self-esteem.

"We're excited about this (donation) because this year, especially, we've found that a lot of our riders are really in need of scholarship funds and we haven't been getting the funding that we normally do for scholarships," said Banbury Director Jessica Moore.

"This means the world to us. We'll have a little bit in the bank to be able to support those riders."

Moore estimated that about 20 to 25 of its riders require assistance from scholarships. Right now, Banbury serves a total of 85 riders per week. During the school year, its peak periods average 115 riders each week.

"Thank you (to Garmin),' Moore added. "For a smaller nonprofit like us, this is a huge amount of money. We're completely thrilled and grateful that they chose us again."

Oxford's Special Olympics program offers disabled individuals age 12 and older the opportunity to participate in sports such as basketball, soccer, swimming and bowling.

Playing sports helps them develop positive social skills, build their self-esteem and become well-rounded individuals.

Jeanne DiCicco, who coaches everything except swimming, explained that Garmin's donation will allow the program to fund its existing sports; merge some Oxford and Lake Orion players to form larger, joint teams; and offer new sports such as softball, flag football, poly hockey and snowshoeing.

"We haven't been able to do the winter Olympics because we don't have the equipment," she said. "Now, we can buy snowshoes and go to the winter games, which are in Mt. Pleasant."

"This means everything to us," said Laurie Lavins, who coaches swimming. "It's a relatively new program (for Oxford), but the joy and the spirit that it brings to the kids is just amazing. We're really looking forward to next year and building the program even more."

As part of its Special Olympics donation, Garmin chipped in an extra $800 (bringing the total up to $8,400) to purchase new uniforms for a special needs basketball team in Pontiac.

The final charity to receive a $7,600 check from Garmin was the Livonia-based Last Day Dog Rescue. This all-volunteer group rescues dogs from shelters that either euthanize them or sell them to research labs.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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