By Anne Weinberg
Ask someone, “So, what do you think makes Granville special?” and you’re likely to get a thoughtful response. Ask a group of Granvillians the same question over a delicious lunch served by the inimitable hostess, Jeni Miller, and you get the kind of stories that simply need to be shared.
Granville Community Foundation Board Members Michelle Lerner, Jeni Miller, Jerry Miller, and I had the pleasure of dining at Jeni's home with guests Ann MacDonald, Lesa Miller, and Susan Leithauser. Our conversation began well before the first bite and ended far later than anyone intended, still lingering long after the dishes had cleared. There was an eagerness to stay, share, and get to the heart of what makes Granville special.
Lesa remembered feeling safe in Granville as a child, “running from house to house” to visit and play. That understanding and trust between neighbors was and is crucial to her appreciation for the town she and her husband, Jerry, still call home. (Incidentally, Jerry and Lesa— Granville High School sweethearts— were born two streets apart from each other in Granville).
Ann and her family moved to Granville in 1999. She recounted an “incredible coming together of community” in 2005 when her son, Parker, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five. Friends and neighbors helped with everything from rides and yard work to cleaning and meals. She says the experience “changed my whole perspective on what community means.”
Susan recalled leaving her family to travel to Baltimore to help a sick family member: “I could get in the car, leave my kids, and know this town would take care of them.” While both Ann and Susan credit the support of close friendships, it was the stepping up of community members less known to them that cemented their understanding of Granville’s strength as a community.
These candid Granville experiences continue to serve as personal and professional inspiration. Lesa works as Program Director for the Granville Recreation District. Husband Jerry is the Fiscal Officer for Granville Township and has been a member of Granville Kiwanis for over 20 years. A self-proclaimed “endurance activist,” Ann runs races and participates in Pelotonia and other events to promote cancer awareness when she isn’t working as a counselor and trainer at the Youth Advocate Program in Newark. Susan is the Senior Development Officer in Parent and Family Philanthropy and Engagement at Denison University and volunteers in a myriad of ways for Granville and Licking County.
Of course, caring for our community takes a lot of work. Over 300 Granville individuals, families, and businesses give to the Granville Community Foundation annually. In return, we work diligently to financially support the shared experiences that connect us and strengthen our community. As our lunch came to a close, Jeni seemed to sum it up perfectly: “The great thing about all this work is that it has a way of paying it forward.” So true. We are inspired by our good neighbors to give more and to do more. Sounds pretty special to me.