Extraordinary event benefits businesses, graduating seniors

This column is all about shopping locally; about all the good it does when we do, all that is lost when we don’t.  

As the third-generation owner of Chelsea Menswear and Willow Tree in Wyandotte, my sharing for the last three years has been based on my very subjective point of view.  

I have watched our entire economy shift from “local” to “national” during my life.  

I don’t see the tide turning, but I surely do see incredible examples of the community-building power of localism, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Back in June, a remarkable project was revealed. I got to watch it happen and simply wouldn’t trade the warmth of that experience.

A lot of work came to a head at our portion of the event created by Mr. John Garvie, a retired Roosevelt High School teacher and coach.  

John retired in 2005, and is still-known well to many. Less so for the graduating class of 2020, because they were just three years old when he retired – but they know who he is now.

Garvie knew and understood the discouraging circumstances of Wyandotte’s 2020 seniors –  the on-line classes, the early end, the elimination of a proper graduation ceremony, and the cancellation of the celebration of prom.  

Everyone who has graduated ever graduated from high school can feel this on a personal level, but Garvie wanted to do something about it.  What he decided to do is something that might be seen as just “a nice thing,” until it dawns on us that it applies to the entire graduating class – all 298 of them.   

“A nice thing” is a bit of an understatement.

John spoke to Wyandotte’s Superintendent of Schools Catherine Cost, sharing his concerns and his wish to create a positive thing in a negative year. He told her what he wanted to do. A stunned Mrs. Cost knew that Kenneth Bearden was a board member on the Love Wyandotte board of directors (President and founder of this organization is another hat of mine), and she called upon him to relay Garvie’s plan to our board to see if Love Wyandotte could and would like to bring this plan to fruition.  

Everyone on our board joined agreed unanimously in the affirmative. Approximately three months later, it all came together.

Roosevelt High School planned and executed a drive-through event where awards, diplomas, certificates, hot dogs, grab bags and more were handed to every graduating student in their cars!  

What a fun thing to be able to watch.  

But it got a lot more fun at the very end, when John Garvie got to hand each senior the envelope that Love Wyandotte team members had put together. He got to personally say “congratulations and best wishes” to each of them as he did.

In each of the 298 envelopes was $100 worth of gift cards to spend at members of the Love Wyandotte coalition of businesses.

A single man that loves his community wrote a check for $30,000 to buy five $20 gift cards for all of them so that he could do a nice thing for a whole bunch of people that he didn’t know.

Love Wyandotte is a Wyandotte 501c-6 that is in the process of creating a city-wide alliance of businesses, non-profits, residents and schools that all work together as different crucial elements of one thing: The economic community of the City of Wyandotte.  

Not the taxes and infrastructure matters; our government handles that well with the help of citizens and businesses and nonprofits. 

The beauty of this incredible gift to the students had another intent, which is an illustration that all of my words in all of my columns could not as effectively communicate: Cash or Visa cards or many other things could have been given, but his plan was to keep the money in Wyandotte at this unprecedented time of financial hardship for the local and independent businesses of Wyandotte.  

The gift cards can only be redeemed here in Wyandotte, perfecting and extending this gift. The additional boost to Love Wyandotte itself is something we could never have imagined. 

In the dictionary of phrases under “heartwarming events,” you’ll find June 17th, 2020 in the City of Wyandotte, where the name John Garvie is highlighted and italicized and in bold type.

This month’s column is dedicated in thanks, appreciation, wonder and gratitude.  

It makes me smile to see all of the ideals of localism demonstrated simply and magnanimously by one man.  It serves beautifully as an operating manual for successful communities everywhere, no matter the scope of the effort.  

Localism works, my friends.  

Go local. Be local.

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