Leslie: Collins caredWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Editor’s Note: This column was originally published at 1matters.org on Feb. 7, the day after Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins died.
I cried yesterday, just as many of you across the community cried, because we lost a dear friend. Not a friend, but a dear friend. That’s Mike. He had the ability to make us feel like dear friends, didn’t he? We just knew he cared.
And he was a very dear friend to those in need. For the past six years, there has been turmoil in local funding policy for the unhoused. One group felt we should close the shelters, and the other group felt the shelters needed to be there to act as landing pads for all citizens who fall through the cracks.
Mike was one of the heroes who stood up for the unhoused, who stood up for the shelters, who fought — and I mean fought — to ensure all Toledoans have a place to go when times get desperately tight.
He fought hard in standing up with Renee Palacios of Family House, Denise Fox of Aurora House, Toledo City Council members Paula Hicks-Hudson, Steve Steel, Lindsay Webb, Tom Waniewski and others to provide the funding the shelters needed to continue operations. This is all public knowledge. But it is the behind-the-scenes things he did that proved his campaign slogan, “Collins Cares.”
One day I got a call from then-Councilman Collins that the city had found a man camping in the woods in South Toledo. Mike wanted me to know so we could go out there and see if there was any way we could help him. On another day with another call, Mike alerted us that the city would need to bulldoze an area where one of our friends had been camping out. He wanted to give one week’s notice so we could help the man relocate, hopefully to a shelter. When it became apparent we needed another week to get that man mentally ready to go into St. Paul’s Community Center, he got us that other week.
There were other calls like that because, well, Collins cares.
I told a friend after one of those calls that Mike was just a true prince of compassion. Most of the time when politicians call asking for help, it’s for one of their family or friends. But with Mike, all citizens, housed or unhoused, were his family and friends.
When we went to the White House last summer, he told everyone we talked to how special Toledo is in compassion. But I guess they already knew; that was why we were there.
If you distill politics to its essence, it is nothing more than a group of allies working to get another ally elected to execute policy to benefit business, the environment, personal gain, public welfare or another agenda. With compassion as one of our strongest values and assets as a community, we knew “Collins Cares” was not just a political slogan, but a statement of fact. And after he was elected he executed his policy of caring. Those who had chosen policy over compassion quietly resigned and our community returned to what it has always been: a compassionate community working together for all citizens, housed and unhoused.
He appointed a director of neighborhoods with an amazing ability to bring people together for the greater good. All of the shelters and programs started working together without acrimony. Funding decisions are again being made based not on favoritism, but rather a laser-like focus on what’s best for the people we are trying to serve.
I consoled a friend yesterday with the words, “Remember, the degree of pain for the loss equals the degree of joy from the love. More love equals more pain. It is in the love that we all win.” But imagining the degree of pain Mike’s family and closest friends feel hurts even more. We lost a dear friend yesterday, but others lost a husband, a father, a grandpa and best friend. We pray for their peace. All of us lost a champion who fought for every one of us while he served in the Marines, on the beat or in government.
I love you, D. Michael Collins. You taught me and our community so much. I loved fighting alongside you. I loved caring with you. Tonight someone is sleeping in a warm bed in a warm shelter that may have been closed and cold but not for your power of compassion.
You will be remembered as a true prince of compassion. Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you.
Ken Leslie is the founder of 1Matters and Veterans Matter.