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By Janet Ogle-Mater

Chelsea Area Historical Society and Museum will be hosting the Lynda Collins Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser and Silent Auction at the Chelsea Depot on Tuesday, May 2 from 4:30-8 p.m.

Dinner with dessert tickets are $10/adult and $5 for children 13 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the Chelsea Depot door on Tuesday, May 2 beginning at 4:30 p.m.

There are over 25 silent auction items, with something for everyone from local dining and business options to toys and Girl Scout cookies. All proceeds go to aid the historical society in maintaining local history education, programs, and the museum.

Thompson’s Pizzeria will be sponsoring the dinner, which is held in honor of the current owners’ mother.

Lynda Collins was a dedicated member of the Chelsea area, and her generosity touched many residents throughout her four decades in the community. She gave food, time, and money to many organizations, and her spaghetti dinner fundraisers were a cornerstone of her kindheartedness. Her children—Kelly, Michelle, Kimberly, Danielle, Shannon, Erin, Nicole, Matthew, and Daymon— share their mother sponsored the annual CHS softball team spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the last 10 years, and provided at least another half dozen spaghetti dinners to raise funds for local nonprofits, families in need, and ailing community members during that period as well.

Courtesy photo.

“Mom was known for her spaghetti,” Kelly, Lynda’s eldest said. “When we still lived in Detroit, she always had a pot boiling on the stove and it seemed like she fed the neighborhood. Once she had the restaurant (Thompson’s Pizzeria), it became her specialty.”

Born and raised in Detroit, Lynda moved to Chelsea in 1977. She married David Longe, a Chelsea native and lived at the family’s generational farm on Island Lake Road. They would later divorce, and to support her young family of six, Lynda worked three jobs. Early each morning, she made the donuts at Chelsea Bakery, and then walked to the police department, where she worked as a dispatcher for 18 years. She also picked up shifts at both the Wolverine and Big Boy.

“Our mom was a hard-worker and strong woman, but we had some tough times,” Michelle said. “I don’t think she ever forgot that, and when she could, she helped others. Like, I remember my mom came home from the police station one day with a single mother and a couple of kids. They were from out of town and their car had broken down. They had little money and no way to get to a hotel, so mom brought them to our place. They stayed a day or two, until their car was fixed.”

“That was the way she was,” Erin added. “She had the kind of personality to take things in and care for them, and she did the same thing for animals. I remember mom had an employee who couldn’t afford a major veterinarian procedure and was planning to forego it, so she offered to take the dog, and then paid for the surgery. We still have Bailey at the farm.”

Lynda was also active in the community. She was a Chelsea Girl Scout troop leader, and coach for her daughters’ softball team for many years. Additionally, she was a vocal supporter of local history. An early member of the Chelsea Area Historical Society, which was established in 1974, Lynda remained an advocate throughout her life, being a significant drive in the purchase of the museum building for the organization’s permanent home in 2014.

She was also involved in Chelsea’s Sesquicentennial and 175th Anniversary celebrations.

“I think moving to Chelsea sparked her love in old things and history,” Michelle said. “We lived in an old farmhouse full of antiques, and Chelsea was historical, and she loved the community, so it just came to be her thing.”

As in point, when the historic depot was threatened with destruction in the mid-1980s, Lynda, along with a small group of like-minded citizens, formed the nonprofit Chelsea Depot Association. They raised funds to purchase the depot from Amtrak, eliminating the threat of demolition, and then restored it to a vibrant community rental space.

File photo. Lynda Collins was surprised by Chamber President Ian Boone with balloons as she was named the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Winner.

Lynda served as President of the Chelsea Depot Association for several years.

The older kids remember spending a good portion of their childhoods at the depot. “We decorated the Christmas tree every year, and held parties or hosted other events there,” Erin said. Michelle recalls painting the depot as a teenager, before the Chelsea Depot Association raised enough money to have it done professionally.

It was also during the 1980s, Lynda remarried. She and Chris Collins, a long-time Chelsea resident, had three additional children together.

In 2002, while still working at the police department, Lynda heard the owner of Thompson Pizzeria was retiring and wanting to sell his restaurant. Always enjoying the food industry, Lynda purchased the local gathering place.

“Our mom was a good cook, and she loved to feed people,” Kelly said.

Lynda continued with the restaurant’s name, relaxed atmosphere, and favorite pizza recipe, but she broadened the menu. Of course, her personal spaghetti recipe was among the offerings, and her giving to the community more visible.

“Mom gave personally to a lot of causes, but she preferred to remain quiet about it,” Shannon said. “She would either donate in the name of Thompson’s, or anonymously, rarely in her own name.”

File photo. Chelsea Chamber of Commerce Board president Ian Boone, Lifetime Achievement Winner Lynda Collins, event sponsor Rick Taylor, Citizen f the Year Ed Vlcek and Chelsea Mayor Jason Lindauer.

Despite her efforts to keep support and generosity discreet, Lynda was recognized three times by the Chelsea community. She received the Howard S. Holmes Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Small Business Leadership Award, and in 2015, the Chelsea Lifetime Achievement Award. A few short months later, Chelsea mourned the passing of Lynda Collins on December 19, 2015.

Her nine children, all who remain in the Chelsea area, are taking up where their mother left off. They continue to own and operate the pizzeria, offering locals a place to commune over tasteful pizza, and providing a training ground of employment for many of Chelsea’s young citizens.

They’re also continuing their mother’s quiet generosity by sponsoring the CHS softball team fundraiser in February, and supporting local history with interest, memberships, and spaghetti dinners.

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