We make cricket runs to the local pet store, Belleville Feed Rite, about three times a week. Frogs are hungry little creatures and picky, too. They only eat their food live. So, if there’s anything high maintenance about our amphibian friends, it’s the need to make those thrice-weekly trips.
Paper and Bottle Drive Unites Small Town1 02 2012
But that’s how I met and got to know Kerri Daugherty, the manager of the Belleville Feed Rite. Slowly over time, we began to talk more and more. When I was diagnosed a year ago, she could see something in me had changed, and asked me about it. That’s when she began wearing one of the Amy bracelets.
Then came the Sky Lights of Love Benefit on December 3, 2011. Feed Rite purchased lanterns for the benefit — and Kerri came, along with her Mom. Something about that event, Kerri later told me, watching a couple hundred luminaries take off into the winter night sky, moved her in a way she couldn’t explain. Kerri, herself a cancer survivor, felt the life being breathed back into her for the first time since her own diagnosis and surgery three years ago.
That’s when she decided that she wanted to do something for me, for Don, for Theo. She and Liz Ward from Mammoth Video just a few storefronts down came up with a grand plan — a paper and bottle drive to raise money to help pay my ongoing, ever-accumulating medical bills and to add to Theo’s college fund. The people of the town of Belleville began arriving at Feed Rite with their vehicles filled with newspapers and cardboard, returnable bottles and notes of love and support scrawled on scraps of paper.
We had no idea any of this was going on until one night, when Don stopped up at Feed Rite for our usual — two dozen small crickets. He came back with the crickets, a pink enveloped marked AMY, and a puzzled look on his face.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the envelope.
“It’s, it’s for us…,” Don stammered. I’ve never seen him so bewildered, so taken off guard.
He explained what Kerri and Liz had been up to as he handed me this envelope, which was filled with the proceeds of their paper and bottle recycling efforts.
That was not even a month ago, and since then, the Paper/Bottle Drive has taken off like wildfire. Businesses throughout Belleville — including Fantastic Sams, Sunset Tanning, Walgreen’s, WalMart, Kroger, Maria’s Bakery, Tucker Insurance, Applebee’s, Comerica Bank, Belleville Animal Hospital, The Perfect Image Salon, Main Street Flowers, with more businesses joining the effort every day — began volunteering to be drop-off points for the recyclables, with employees and owners alike offering to do the bottle returns and paper runs.
Then the editor of The Belleville Current got wind of what was going on. Kerri had contacted the newspaper to purchase an ad to get the word out about the fund-raising effort. Editor Bob Thorne responded by telling Kerri that he’d not only run the ad — but for four weeks, free of charge.
What do you say when people rally in support of you — many of whom have never even met you? I’ve tried “thank you,” over and over again, but somehow, it doesn’t seem like enough right now. The words to express how deeply touched Don, Theo and I are, either aren’t coming to me, or perhaps they just plain don’t exist.
Or, maybe they do — coming from Belleville Lake Current Editor Kevin Werner, in his weekly column:
“My friend and partner Bob Thorne called with a very familiar tone. “Kevin, it’s happening again.” Bob was referring to the inspiring efforts of local businesses to help Belleville resident Amy Rauch Neilson who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer (see William Zilke’s story on our front page). For those that know Bob, there are the occasional moments when he engages you with the tenderness of coarse sandpaper. Then there are the moments that matter – when he speaks with the captivating depth and warmth of a campfire that lights the soul and, in Bob’s case, a community…
“When Bob and I spoke this week, the identity of our town and our publication was renewed,” Kevin continues. “(These actions) define who we are as a community as far as I’m concerned,” Bob said.
“(Reporter) William Zilke, as usual, said it best today. “That’s the way love works. This town should be very proud of itself.”
Love, as part of a grassroots effort that so many of us have doubted the existence of in this busy time and age, is indeed alive and well. In Kerri’s words, the paper and bottle drive has begun to “take on a life of its own.” On February 24 and 25, the town will be gathering at The Creek (50521 W. Huron River Drive) for a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, food, drinks and live music from 5 p.m. to close. All proceeds, again, will go to our family to pay medical bills and Theo’s educational costs.
Again, we are speechless — with this exception: Don and I bought our house on the east end of Belleville Lake just a week before we were married on July 4, 1999. We were looking for a community where people still cared about and reached out to one another. A place to put down roots and call home. There’s no doubt in our minds that we’ve found it.
Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson