Lights soon will shine on a Gahanna landmark, thanks to the Gahanna Foundation recently meeting its $7,700 goal to finance the lighting of the Gothic-style bell tower at the Gahanna Sanctuary, 82 N. High St.
"The nights of darkness will end soon as spring brings good weather to finish the work started last fall, that was abruptly halted when Mother Nature intervened with hornets and high winds," said John Michael Spinelli, president of the Gahanna Foundation Inc. who also spearheaded the project.
He estimates the towers' louvers and lights will be finished no later than mid-May, allowing for a month of preparing the lights and any show that can be created for the Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival set June 14-16.
Spinelli said a dedication event will be scheduled, but a date isn't set.
Built as part of Peace Lutheran Church in 1895, he said, the bell tower is one of two original features that earned the Gahanna Sanctuary a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
The Gahanna Foundation, which secured its charitable 501c3 tax status from the IRS only eight months ago, took on the fundraising drive for the project and exceeded its $7,700 goal by 16 cents on March 15, Spinelli said.
The goal was met after checks were deposited following a sneak peek of lights on the building during Gahanna's March 14 State of the City address.
Like an electric flower that only blooms at night, and only in Gahanna, Spinelli said, the first glimpse of what lights can do when professionally applied was made possible by Chris Apfelschtadt of Light Up Columbus, who orchestrated a one-night-only display that guests agreed was spectacular.
"The lighting scenario presented for Gahanna's State of the City event this year provided some eye candy for the few who saw it in person," he said.
Spinelli said responses to the lighting have been overwhelmingly positive.
The foundation was created in part as a fiscal agent for grants submitted on behalf of the Gahanna Sanctuary, Spinelli said.
"Reaching its first funding goal in such a short time, knowing that few knew about the foundation or its first project, the foundation's success on its flagship bell-tower lighting project augers well for future civic-minded projects," he said.
He said he credits 55 pioneer donors, who set an example that if the project is meritorious of itself, private interests can advance civic-minded projects, regardless of where the donor lives.
Spinelli said about 30 percent of the contributions came from people who aren't Gahanna natives or current residents.
Columbus resident Kay Mullins is one of those donors.
She said Spinelli's enthusiasm for the project has been contagious.
"The Gahanna Sanctuary is a lovely historical building in the center of Gahanna," she said.
"I frequent Gahanna. I like it. I think it deserves to be showcased."
Mullins said she lived in the San Francisco bay area, and the Golden Gate Bridge received all the attention.
"Now there's lights on the (Oakland) Bay Bridge and it outshines the Golden Gate," she said. "I think lights transform something that's already nice."
Mullins said she's excited about what will come next.
"I think it's a good start and will gain attention," she said. "I think it will develop into something good for the whole community."
Gahanna resident Merisa Bowers, a member of the foundation's board, said she also joined the effort as a result of Spinelli's passion for the project.
"He has bigger picture ideas of revitalizing the Sanctuary, which is why I supported it myself," she said.
Bowers said she hopes to help build relationships with others including Gahanna Residents In Need, the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation and the Gahanna Parks and Recreation Foundation to possibly help with requests outside of their scopes.
"I'm hopeful the foundation will be able to do overall general support and fill in gaps for existing entities," she said.
Bowers said the foundation has set a meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. April 30, at a place to be announced, for anyone interested in joining the board or wanting to get involved with projects.
She described the meeting as a "meet and greet," to "get to know" the foundation.
Bowers said future details will be available at thegahannafoundation.org or by emailing her at merisa. firstname.lastname@example.org.
"When completed, this project will become a recognized attraction that will draw people from near and far to see it," Spinelli said.
He said a future foundation project might involve the creation of a new garden area adjacent to the Gahanna Sanctuary.
"The two unique, colorful outdoor projects will command attention where there was none before," Spinelli said.