I hope this message finds you and your families safe and well.

My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 coronavirus and I continue to pray for improved health for those now ill.

It's hard to believe only two months ago a state of emergency was declared to protect the well-being of Ohioans and slow the progress of this deadly virus. At that time, there were only three known cases in Ohio and as I write this, there are now more than 16,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 900 deaths.

The past several weeks have been extremely challenging and a major adjustment to the life we were accustomed to, yet our community has pulled together in a truly remarkable way, helping to alleviate much of the challenge.

One of the most significant changes came to schoolchildren and their educators. I cannot say enough about how well South-Western City Schools, Grove City Christian School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and Beautiful Savior Lutheran School have handled this event. The selfless compassion showered upon their students and parents-turned-home educators is both admirable and commendable.

I will not be able to list all the heartwarming efforts of community-initiated assistance, yet I will share a few.

I am aware of grand efforts led by the Grove City Church of the Nazarene, resulting in 3,000 meals distributed to schoolchildren and thousands of handmade masks donated and shared with the community.

A weekly effort has been organized by local residents to greet and celebrate the employees of our local healthcare community during shift changes. Many neighbors and friends support each other through inspiring messages chalked on sidewalks, thoughtful birthday celebration parades and food provided to those in need.

Our community Call Center has fielded a large quantity of calls, connecting individuals needing assistance with appropriate staff, volunteers and organizations poised to help.

The needs range from assisting with yard work to grocery and prescription pick-up and delivery.

The Call Center staff make wellness-check phone calls and often offer a calming voice during this time of uncertainty.

It's been inspiring to witness how area residents have embraced local businesses as they push through necessary constraints brought on by efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

For example, Heart of Grove City, the nonprofit group that promotes Grove City's historic Town Center shops and eateries, established a Small Business Assistance Donation fund for member businesses affected by COVID-19 closures. Many of the establishments created and sold specialty items with profits going directly to the fund, Project Altogether.

In addition to multiple fundraising efforts by the Town Center businesses, many other local establishments have created fundraisers to support the Grove City Food Pantry, the Grove City MASH Pantry and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

I offer my continued appreciation to the Grove City Division of Police, the Jackson Township Fire Department and the LifeCare Alliance Meals on Wheels volunteers for their ongoing dedication to this community.

I also want to recognize the Grove City employees who have continued to "show up" and keep the city running during the pandemic. Additionally, I applaud the Grove City Council members who have worked tirelessly attending to business at hand through unusual circumstances. I am so proud of the fantastic community we have. We are in this together and together we are stronger.

Richard L. "Ike" Stage is the mayor of Grove City.