Dentures and More Stolen from Blind Man Who Peddles Pencils at Walgreens in Royal Oak
(Cheryl Weiss, Aug. 27, 2019)
Royal Oak, MI – Remember the story about Frank Sawiki, the blind man who sells pens and pencils at the Walgreens in Royal Oak at the intersection of Coolidge and Woodward? He’s been out there since 2001, never bothering anyone, just sitting in his chair, happy to sell his wares and maybe have a chat with people who approach him. Sawiki has collected numerous acquaintances over the years; pretty much everyone knows him or has at least seen him out there. No matter the season, and in almost any type of weather, he is there. His friends look out for him, offering him rides and checking on him. Although it is not an easy life, he says it has been a good life, and Sawiki was content.
At least, until the morning of August 10, 2019.
It was Saturday morning, one week before the Dream Cruise. Sawiki arrived at his regular spot early in the morning, and settled in, looking forward to a successful, positive day.
Around 7:00 AM, Sawiki went into Walgreens to use the restroom. As always, he took his cane and made his way to the store. He soon came back outside, and his chair was in place, but his bag was gone!
All the pens and pencils in his inventory to sell were stolen. His phone chargers were in his bag, now gone. The red tape he puts on his cane…. a bottle opener…. lighter fluid…flints…. even his dentures, the upper plate and lower partial were taken. In just the few minutes it took for him to use the restroom, as he always did without worry for the last eighteen years, everything he brought with him that day was gone.
Theft, no matter the situation, is upsetting. The victim often feels violated, angry, sad, and overwhelmed when faced with filing a police report and trying to recover or replace the stolen items.
When you are blind, and the items stolen were the ones you depend on to earn a living, it’s devastating.
“Someone said it was a lady with a husband or boyfriend. They tried to watch, to see who it was, but she took off in a black truck,” Sawiki said.
According to Nina, an employee at Walgreens, it all happened very quickly. An employee from another store who was there to help them with inventory witnessed the theft, but it happened too quickly for her to stop them.
Surely, with cameras everywhere, it must be caught on video, right? “No, the theft was not caught on camera,” Sawiki said, “the cameras for Walgreens and CVS [across the street] do not extend to that spot.”
Sawiki called the police right away, and they came out to take a report, but they are unable to identify or locate the thief. According to Royal Oak Police Dispatcher Tom Tinari, who read the report, it says, “Officers arrived at the scene at 7:17 AM. It happened early morning, and the cameras gave no clear view. We just have an employee’s description of a young, light skinned black female, about 5’4”. She got into a black sedan. During the theft, she got out of the sedan, grabbed the bags, and got back into the car.”
As with any other victim of theft, Sawiki had to figure out what he can replace, and what he will have to adjust to living without, at least for a while. “Some people have donated pens and pencils, not many, and I had to buy more to sell,” he said. “Some of the pencils and pens were from Target.” He can’t afford to buy as many as he had before the theft, so he is trying to make do with buying just a few at a time. He still needs chargers for his T-Mobile phone, both a car charger and a wall charger. The rest of the items he had in his bag still need to be replaced as well. He will probably receive a new lighter from someone, and tape for his cane. Those items are relatively easy to replace.
His dentures, however, cannot easily be replaced. He had an upper denture and a lower partial, and his insurance will only pay for a new set every five years. Since Sawiki had not had these very long, he will need to wait nearly five years to have them replaced.
While a new set of dentures would be nice, Sawiki’s immediate need is pencils and pens to sell. He is hoping that by sharing his story of the theft, people might stop by and donate a few pens and pencils, so that he can keep earning money to support himself.
If you’ve driven past the intersection of Woodward and Coolidge, you may have seen him out there. He sits on a chair in that space between the sections of the wall on the Coolidge side. Whether it is hot, cold, rainy, or even snowy, Sawiki is out there.
He asks that as you buy school supplies for your kids this week or stock up on items to keep on hand in the house, please consider buying an extra pack of pens or pencils, and dropping it off to him as you run errands. Any help with new dentures would also be appreciated.
When asked what he would say if he could speak to the person who stole his bag, Sawiki answered, “I would say I’m angry, and whoever did it should be locked up for six months.” He also said he’ll have to keep his bag with him moving forward.
UPDATE: Royal Oak resident Brandon Kolo has started a GoFundMe page to help pay or Sawki’s replacement dentures.
Story of the Blind Man Selling Pens in the Walgreen’s Parking Lot (June 7, 2018)