George Schmidt felt at home almost immediately after settling in Forest Park two decades ago.

George Schmidt felt at home almost immediately after settling in Forest Park two decades ago.

"When I first moved in here, I was trying to start my lawn mower and it wouldn't start," Schmidt recalled last week, "and a guy came across the street and he pulled a sparkplug out of his one pocket and a wrench out of the other and he got it started. We've been good friends ever since."

Shortly after that, a native of Puerto Rico who had grown up in the "projects" of New York City moved nearby, Schmidt recalled. The guy owned a hammer, but that was it in terms of tools to maintain a home. Taking a cue from his across-the-street neighbor, Schmidt and some others showed their new neighbor the tools he would need and how to use them.

"He became quite handy," said Schmidt, the longtime president of the Forest Park Civic Association.

The association, which is now presided over by Mike Stone, turned 50 in April.

A 50th anniversary banquet is set for Thursday, May 17, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at CrossRoads Baptist Church, formerly the Columbus Baptist Temple, 5075 Cleveland Ave.

The commemorative event, sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, will feature entertainment provided by the Northland High School Jazz Band and Choir. Tickets are $10 and reservations are due by Thursday, May 3.

"It is an extraordinary milestone to think that his organization has been running for 50 years nonstop, and this celebration is really going to be worthy of that milestone," said Stone, a resident since 1998. "Forest Park is such a special place for residents and all involved here. This is just going to be a tremendous and a very worthy and appropriate celebration to mark something like this."

Stone said he, too, gained an appreciation for his new neighborhood right away.

"I met my neighbors probably within 48 hours of our moving truck pulling up," he said. "There are very few that have moved. The vast majority of them are still there 12 years later, and that's a diverse group, too, a mix of younger families and retirees.

"We do have quite a diversity of age demographics."

Information on the civic association's website says President John Adams originally awarded the region now developed as Forest Park to James Hamilton in payment for military services during the Revolutionary War. The area was later sold and developed into farms, until it was acquired by the Forest Park developers.

According to the website, the Metzger Brothers Co. developed Forest Park as a well-planned, self-contained community. In 1961, Forest Park West was the first residential neighborhood in Columbus, and among the first in the nation, to incorporate internal shopping and recreation. The development of Forest Park East followed in 1965.

The Forest Park neighborhood encompasses approximately 1.4 square miles and is home to an estimated 7,500 people. Some 400 or so of those are original residents, according to Schmidt.

"That tells you how much the community is vital," he added.

"What you'll find is that a lot of people who came here simply decided to stay here," Stone said.

The civic association, formally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in April 1962, received a Chase 200Columbus Neighborhood Grant through the Greater Columbus Arts Council to help with commemorating the 50th anniversary, Stone said.

Stone has a 9-year-old daughter who doesn't quite grasp what his being president of the civic association means.

"She asked me if I ran the elementary school, too," Stone said. "I told her the president's job is to do what everyone else tells him to do."