By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — A slow economy has nipped the Purple Heart Memorial Garden project in the bud, at least for now.
The project, taken on by the Beautification and Historical commissions, the local Chapter of the Military Order and the Purple heart, was intended to be funded by donations and the sale of engraved bricks. All of the members of the group working on the project, including city employees, have donated their time.
Since December, however, donations and sales have “stalled,” said Natalie Rankine, the city’s part-time special events coordinator and member of the Beautification Commission.
The city’s Purple Heart Statue, originally dedicated in 1943, was removed last year from its base at the intersection of Biddle and Superior to be cast in bronze for preservation.
A “Walk of Honor” consisting of the engraved bricks also is included in the project. Flags representing the five branches of service, as well as the Prisoner of War and Missing In Action flags, are planned to partially surround the statue.
The entire project — estimated to cost about $220,000 and slated to be completed this year — has been put on hold due to lack of funds.
So far, $151,000 has been received, along with an additional $5,000 in pledges, leaving the group $64,000 short of its goal.
“It is probably due to the economic times and the climate right now,” Rankine said. “We just haven’t been receiving very many donations.”
She said the statue is now complete, and that the bronzing company will hold it for up to a year if the money is not raised. Several local service organizations have donated money and held fundraisers since the project’s inception.
Garfield Elementary School students will start a fundraiser for the project on Tuesday.
“They are going to be selling paper hearts for us and doing a grass-roots fundraiser,” Rankine said.
Official announcement of the school’s effort is expected at Tuesday’s Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education meeting.
“We are also going to have them research a time capsule project and have the capsule buried on the site,” she said. “So they are going to be doing some research about the Purple Heart and our city.”
Garfield Elementary, at 340 Superior, is the closest public school to the project site.
“The site is already prepped and ready to go,” Rankin said. “We have the drawings done. We just have to raise the money.
“The good news is that of the $156,000 that we have raised, $14,000 has been from bricks, which is quite impressive at $100 a brick.”
Engraved bricks still are on sale on the city’s Web site, www.wyandotte.net, and fliers are posted in City Hall. Large bricks cost $100; smaller bricks are $75.
“For any kind of group to get together and take on that project, and try to raise that kind of money is really a challenge,” Mayor James DeSana said. “We’re just asking people to help us raise that last $60,000.”