Oakridge Residents Reap Secret Millionaire Award

by: Scott Reynolds, Lane Today

It’s no secret Oakridge’s economy has suffered disproportionately compared to the rest of Lane County in recent years. The once-thriving timber town of approximately 3300 residents was hit hard, first by the mill closures between 1978 and the 1990s, then the Great Recession. Throw in the well-publicized mismanagement of hundreds of thousands of dollars of city finances (overseen by former city administrator Gordon Zimmerman), leading to the depletion of city reserves, then the subsequent layoffs of one-third of the city’s employees, and it is evident Oakridge is a town needing something to go its way to catch a break.

Oakridge’s 15 Minutes of Fame

Last year, that break came when ABC Television’s hit show Secret Millionaire, which paid a visit to Oakridge.

The premise of the show is as follows: A wealthy benefactor chooses a disadvantaged community where he or she wants to make a difference. The benefactor moves into the community and lives undercover in conditions similar to most area residents, and subsists on a minimal amount of money for the week he is there. The benefactor poses as a film maker or producer wanting to document needy organizations, non-profits, etc., and spends time volunteering and asking them what they do to impact their community. On the last day, the benefactor returns to the sites visited and presents the recipient agencies and organizations with checks for large sums of money intended to help further their causes.

Oakridge is an atypical site for Secret Millionaire to visit, as the show generally visits larger cities such as Long Beach, CA and Newark, NJ. This visit to Oakridge has a unique twist, as the benefactor also wanted to contribute directly to every citizen in the community, and did so by making a cash contribution of $100 to every man, woman and child who resided in Oakridge in October 2011, during the show’s filming.

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