Original story by Marla K. Kuhlman, This Week Community News
Gahanna's Becky Kneeland said she wants residents to know it's a new day in the city.
Kneeland, wife of Mayor Tom Kneeland, is leading a new civic-pride initiative with the creation of a nonprofit called Make Gahanna Yours.
"I believe that each and every one of us can make a difference in this world and that everyone can have a role to play in (his or her) city's success," she said. "From picking up a piece of trash you see on the street to caring for your home to planting gardens throughout the city to recycling to supporting local business with your dollars, it all builds our sense of community and truly makes the difference between an ordinary community and an outstanding community."
After Tom Kneeland was elected mayor, Becky said, people asked what she was going to do as the first lady of the city.
"I thought about a beautification committee," she said. "I think pride went by the wayside."
Kneeland and other volunteers have been working since March on several projects.
On Memorial Day, Make Gahanna Yours was responsible for 288 flags that were placed in the city's medians and baskets on the Big Walnut bridge.
"We were able to get the VFW to donate these flags that will go up again to celebrate the Fourth of July to try to promote more patriotism in Gahanna," Kneeland said. "We have 3,000 flags we'll hand out at the parade."
The group of about 12 volunteers is working on eight big planters for Olde Gahanna that will include herbs to highlight the city's "Herb Capital of Ohio" designation and is hand-painting three pianos that will be placed outside in the Creekside/Olde Gahanna area.
Longtime Gahanna resident Alveda "Snook" Bates said she is vested in Gahanna and ready to help her community.
"I have four generations in this community," she said. "I'll be under the direction of the chairman. Whatever Becky needs, I'll do it. I want to support her.
"Make Gahanna Yours invites you and friends to make this city what you want it to be by volunteering. Join in Making Gahanna Yours."
Resident Amy Veach is Bates' neighbor.
"She (Bates) explained the wonderful things Mrs. Kneeland is doing," Veach said. "Then she asked if I wanted to paint a piano. I'll pick and choose what fits in with my schedule."
The piano project is called Keys to the City and will bring free, playable pianos to public spaces of Olde Gahanna this summer.
Whether one can play "Chopsticks" or Chopin, Kneeland said, three outdoor public pianos will be available from July to the end of September for those inspired to pause and play.
"Tom and I saw the piano idea in Lancaster," she said. "In the next week or two, the pianos will be placed."
All three pianos have been donated and are being painted free of charge.
"Right now we're using our own money," Kneeland said. "We're trying to be frugal with money. We're recycling what the city has. I washed (herb capital) banners with bleach. They will be looking brand new. I think the banners should have a message, telling we're the herb capital or (something) patriotic."
Tom Kneeland said Make Gahanna Yours is taking over some things the city had inherited over time that should be done by private groups. Examples are city beautification, litter control and cultural arts.
When Kneeland was campaigning, his wife said people they had talked to said they would help with projects.
"We need to get people re-engaged," she said. "Everyone has the opportunity to make Gahanna what they want it to be -- their place to worship, their place to raise a family, their place to live, work and play.
"We're trying to include all ages. People can be as involved as they want to be. We want everyone to know it's a new day."
Residents may submit ideas or volunteer by going online to www.makegahannayours.com