As I write this, the sign outside of the Grove City Church of the Nazarene still reads, "U matter."
This is a clear reminder of our community's foundation and how we all came together in the face of misfortune the first weeks of April.
In the early evening of April 3, our beloved, twice-voted "Best Hometown" by Ohio Magazine, was struck by an unforgiving EF1 tornado with winds topping 110 mph. In just a few short minutes, the tornado left in its path 32 downed or damaged power poles, holding 27 miles of lines; 8,500 households without electricity; 450 damaged residences and businesses; uprooted trees and damaged vehicles.
What the tornado was unable to take was our community spirit.
Venturing out of their safe locations following the touchdown, neighbors hurried to the aid of neighbors, many helping to bail water to avoid or minimize flooding in basements.
I witnessed those with electricity stretching extension cords and generators to the houses of those without power. I heard stories of friends housing families, delivering meals to neighbors and one sweet story of folks carrying another's pet from their home to safety.
Our residents have been the real story of success in our community's continued recovery, welcoming crews with meals, offering warm places to rest and providing support as though they are old friends.
These have been among the touching and appreciated displays of gratitude to AEP and other utility companies whose employees worked tirelessly in the wake of the storm -- in all weather conditions -- to bring back power to the affected houses, helping restore and maintain safe living conditions.
This experience allowed us to better appreciate the hardships experienced by other communities hit with more severe and far-reaching devastation.
We didn't have to make a request for help, as calls of "how can we help" came in droves. Needs for meals, housing, showering facilities, cellphone charging stations, warm beds and shelter were all met with urgency and grateful hearts.
Though it doesn't surprise me, this outpouring was quite overwhelming and reminds me of the things I love most about my hometown. This is truly the best hometown in all of Ohio and I am grateful to be part of it.
By God's grace, there were no deaths or major injuries caused by the tornado. Two houses remain uninhabitable and damage costs are nearly $35 million and continue to climb. We still have work to do, as the rebuilding continues for homes that were destroyed or flooded, roofs and siding damaged, windows blown out and chimneys left unstable. But we are all here ... we are all safe. You matter. We were a strong community before the tornado and have become an even stronger community after.
I share my sincere appreciation to all who rushed to help those in need.
Listed below are just a few of the many organizations; however, this list does not include the hundreds of individuals who stepped up that day and continue to give to those in need.
Thanks to AEP; Chick-fil-A; City of Grove City Building Division, Community Relations Department, Division of Police, IT Department, Parks and Recreation Department, Safety Director, Service Department; Columbia Gas of Ohio; Courtyards on Hoover; Credit Union of Ohio; CST Utilities; D and E-Z-O's Pizza; Donatos Pizza; Flyers Pizza; Franklin County EMA; Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Grandstand Pizza; Grove City Church of the Nazarene; Grove City Library; Highland Baptist Church; Jackson Township Road Department; Jackson Township Fire; Jolly Pirate Donuts; Joseppis Pizza; LifeCare Alliance; Little Caesar's Pizza; National Weather Service; Office of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers; Pleasant Township Fire; American Red Cross of Central Ohio; South-Western City School District; Spectrum; StoryPoint Grove City; Tammy's Pizza; Tim Hortons; WOW; YMCA Grove City; Zamarelli's Pizza Palace and Zanzis Pizza.
Mayor Richard L. "Ike" Stage is serving his fifth term as mayor.