Members of Hands on Oregon were in for a big surprise Monday when they attended a regular meeting of the volunteer organization.
HOO President Rick Ryland waited until everyone had arrived at Conover Square to show them a giant check for $50,000, thanks to an anonymous donor.
The unexpected — and very welcome — gift brought Vice President Fran Strouse to tears.
“It was a huge surprise,” Ryland said Tuesday. “It is just huge.”
HOO, a not-for-profit, was formed in 2015 by Ryland and Jeff Hallock with the purpose of enriching the lives of Oregon citizens through local caring and creating excitement through volunteerism.
As their first project, they chose repairing the south wall of Conover Square.
Moisture and age had caused the wall of the century-old building to deteriorate and bow out.
Building owner Lou VanderWyst had already shored up the inside of the wall with jacks and was doing what he could to deal with the problem.
However, money was tight, and he lacked the amount needed to make the extensive repairs.
HOO set to work in late December of 2015, removing the stucco from the wall’s outside and shoring up the studding, then insulating the wall and sheeting it.
The process has been slow at times, but obstacles have been overcome and donations have rolled in.
Ryland said the latest one means he can now order more materials.
“What we can do now is order the pieces,” he said.
Before going ahead with the work, Ryland said, the fire department wants an architect to approve the design for the solar wall.
Plans call for the entire south wall to be a solar collector, which is expected to drastically lower the heating costs for the 100,000 square foot building.
HOO also needs the go-ahead from ComEd to proceed because of the proximity of electrical wires.
Once completed, the eastern one-quarter of the wall will be sided to look like a large American flag. The names of those who have donated will also be listed on the wall.
Ryland expressed his gratitude for everyone involved in the project.
“First of all, I thank God for his blessing and favor on this project,” he said.
Monetary donations, coming from individuals and organizations, have now exceeded $101,000. Anonymous donors have contributed $90,000 of that.
Other donors include Nicor Gas, Eagle’s Nest Art Group, Blackhawk Model Railroad, and Oregon Woman’s Club.
Hector’s Cocina and Conover Chocolates, both businesses in Conover Square, have provided food for the volunteers working on the project, and Fischers, Inc., in downtown Oregon, has donated printing.
Ryland also voiced his appreciation to Oregon Mayor Ken Williams and the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council for their help.
“A special thank you goes to the Oregon Republican Reporter,” Ryland said. “The paper has been invaluable in getting the word out.”
To contribute to Hands on Oregon, make checks payable to Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and on the memo line write Hands On Oregon.
Checks can be mailed to Hands on Oregon, PO Box 244, Oregon IL 61061.
All contributions are tax deductible.