Donors step up after theft of nonprofit's trailer full of sports equipment for the disabled
Usually, crimes show the worst in people — greed, selfishness and disrespect for other people and their property. But, in the aftermath of such acts, the best traits in humanity can sometimes shine through.
One group of Ann Arbor business owners is looking to translate those greatest of human qualities — benevolence, generosity and empathy — into a springboard for recovery for the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living.
Courtesy of AACIL
The center lost tens of thousands of dollars — estimates ranged between $20,000 and $30,000 — when thieves hitched up a trailer, containing specialized sports equipment for the disabled, to an SUV and drove off into the night sometime before the morning of March 12. Despite repeated pleas to return the equipment, the loss of the handcycles, tricycles and other equipment may cost the AACIL the chance to put on some of its usual summer programming.
Nick Suino, owner of the Japanese Martial Arts Center, and other members of the South Side Business Association are working feverishly to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Center for Independent Living was designated as the association’s preferred non-profit organization at the start of the year — meaning there was already going to be fundraisers held in its honor — but the theft put that much more urgency into their efforts.
“The center has a wonderful event where people ride from Ludington to Ann Arbor (and that’s in jeopardy). These folks can’t walk or see and when I thought they weren’t going to do that, I figured we can’t wait for the fundraisers later,” Suino said. “We have to act right now.”
The association has already started to find the funds, coming from anywhere and everywhere, to help the center. At a March 22 meeting of the business association, Suino said he stood up, took $20 from his pocket and committed to donate that money. He encouraged everyone else in the room to donate the same amount, and if it happened, he’d donate $100.
Suino’s motion was well received: About $350 was raised in minutes. And that was just the start.
His goal is to raise $12,000 for the AACIL and he said he’s already about a third of the way there.
Gillian Andrews, co-owner of Andrews Office Warehouse with her husband, said getting involved was never a question once she heard the shocking nature of the crime.
“This was ugly, quite frankly,” she said. “ It wasn’t random. Why the heck would someone want to steal that stuff?”
The business community on the south side of Ann Arbor is a tightly knit group, Andrews said. Part of the reason the association exists is to create a sense of community among those who are all working to make an honest dollar, she said.
With so many businesses near the AACIL, and so many people familiar with the people at the center, the crime hit close to home. But, the people who work at the center were actually less angry about the crime than the business leaders who contacted them, according to James Snider.
Snider, the owner of Arbor Motion, said it was incredible to watch the center’s employees get right back to work instead of focusing on the huge loss of the equipment.
“These aren’t people who heard this news and were down in the doldrums, whining and complaining,” he said. “I was more upset than they were. They are surrounded with unfortunate situations in life, so to them it’s almost like, ‘Hey, we’ll deal with it.’”
Snider said he was ready to put in $1,000, either for reward money or a direct donation to the center.
The support given by the business owners in the South Side Business Association is not shocking, given the type of people in the organization, according to Suino. He said the AACIL’s ideals of being community minded and helping out others meshes nicely with the communal plans of the association.
The chance to step up to the plate and rally around the center gave business owners a chance to practice what they preach, Andrews said.
“All of us firmly believe in a local community working together to be a positive in more ways than making just making an honest dollar,” she said. “We’re trying to walk what we talk.”
To get involved, contact Suino at 734-645-6441, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Editor's note: The headline on this story has been revised.)