Coronavirus a year later: 12 Daytonians reflect on the past and future

A year ago today marked the moment that COVID-19 went from a emerging threat on a somewhat distant horizon to a grim reality that would kill more than 500,000 Americans in its first year and alter the lives of millions.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. The writing had been on the wall for weeks internationally, nationally and locally, but the events of that day drove home how dangerous the situation had become.

The Dayton Daily News checked in with 12 area business and community leaders and let them tell us what they learned about their lives, businesses and policy making during the pandemic.

Holly Allen of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

Holly Allen, director of marketing and communication at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, was in China in late 2019 and early 2020, when COVID-19 first took hold in that country. She and her family returned to Ohio by Jan. 25, 2020.

“I knew we had a long road ahead of us, understanding that it would be really hard to stop it from spreading without making some tough decisions, which we eventually saw,” she added.

Maybe the watchword of the past year, for Allen and others, was “flexibility.” Everyone had to learn to adapt.

For more on Allen’s experience go here.

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

Nicole Adkins of With God’s Grace

Nicole Adkins, executive director of With God’s Grace food pantry, said the effects of the pandemic will be seen beyond this year.

“So many have been hit so hard and so many are still not in work now,” Adkins said. “We’re going to be seeing the effects of this economy… it’s not something that’s going to magically fix in a year or two. It’s going to take some time. It’s just like when we went through the tornadoes. It’s going to take a while to recover.”

For more on Adkin’s experience go here.

Pete Landrum, Beavercreek City Manager

Beavercreek City Manager Pete Landrum said he has worked more this past year than ever before. And many of those hours working were spent making difficult decisions on whether to keep various city entities, like the senior center or golf course, open or whether to layoff employees.

“Everyday it was something new,” Landrum said. “It came fast and furious.”

For more on Landrum’s experience go here.

Nick Ripplinger of Battle Sight Technologies

Nick Ripplinger, president of Dayton’s Battle Sight Technologies, recalled that when the pandemic hit, he faced two options: “Tighten the boot straps” and try to hold on or invest in new products and charge ahead as far as possible.

“We chose the second one,” Ripplinger said. “We invested heavily into new products we wanted to develop. And we also pivoted and did the hand sanitizer to help the community a little bit. But it definitely paid off for us.”

For more on Ripplinger’s experience go here.

Bridget Walker of Sweets Boutique Bakery

Bridget Walker, who owns Sweets Boutique Bakery in downtown Xenia, never thought the coronavirus would come to her hometown.

“I didn’t think it would spread throughout the whole world,” Walker said.

For more on Walker’s experience go here.

Credit: Justin Spivey

Credit: Justin Spivey

Daniel Wendt, Vandalia City Manager

Vandalia’s new city manager, Dan Wendt, a self-proclaimed extrovert, said the pandemic taught him to appreciate the small things, like handshakes.

“A handshake means a lot more, a face to face meeting means a lot more because we’ve accepted the risk and it’s with reverence that we approach our relationships with anyone because we don’t want to expose them to undue risk,” he said.

For more on Wendt’s experience go here.

Aaron Lumpkin of Trotwood Wee Rams

Local Pee Wee football coach, Aaron Lumpkin, started following the updates on COVID-19 in late 2019. Most people, including Lumpkin, thought it was something that would never show up in the United States.

“I didn’t think that much about it, just because it was in China,” he said. But once it appeared in the country, he saw it as a “very big problem.”

For more on Lumpkin’s experience go here.

Michelle Collins, Miamisburg Mayor

Miamisburg Mayor Michelle Collins said COVID-19 news started to sink in for her as she and her husband visited Washington, D.C. the first weekend of the pandemic because he works there.

Collins said she was impressed at how city of Miamisburg officials and local companies quickly and adroitly adjusted. “Services didn’t end but we had to keep staff safe,” she said.

For more on Collin’s experience go here.

Cameron Shade of TJ Chumps

Foot traffic slowed at TJ Chumps in Miamisburg as the pandemic arrived and leading up to the state’s shutdown of restaurants on March 15, according to Cameron Shade, that location’s general manager, who has worked for the business since 2016.

Shade said he remembers feeling unsure of how things might develop.

“You’re not quite sure what’s next, how long (it will last), uncertainty whether you’re even going to have a job the next day,” he said.

For more on Shade’s experience go here.

Duane Isaacs of Treasure Island Supper Club

Three decades of owning Treasure Island Supper Club in Moraine was not enough to prepare owner Duane Isaacs for the length of the state-mandated restaurant closure that would follow.

“I just thought it would be a week or something,” Isaacs said. “I didn’t think it would be anything like it was going to be now or has been the last year, but you never know. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

For more on Issacs’ experience go here.

Rob Connelly, chairman and chief executive of Henny Penny in Eaton

Henny Penny workers are returning to their Eaton offices, and the food preparation equipment company’s chief executive is greeting them with an upbeat message: “We’re back.”

“From being down over 80% last April to currently running at full capacity, we are as busy as we have ever been in our history,” Rob Connelly, Henny Penny chairman and CEO, said in the recent message to workers. “The Roaring 20′s are coming, and we are preparing. There is so much excitement and people can’t wait to get back out and be together, be it a restaurant, event, vacation, ballgame, or whatever.”

He added: “The future is bright, and we are happy to be back”

For more on Connelly’s experience go here.

Chris Keilholz, co-owner of Skyline Chili at the Dayton Mall

Chris Keilholz, co-owner of Skyline Chili at the Dayton Mall, said he remembers watching Gov. Mike DeWine give his first press conferences thinking the coronavirus was something that would go away in a few weeks or months.

“It’s sad to see the empty businesses around here like Golden Corral and the movie theater. We were fortunate, lucky I guess,” Keilholz said.

For more on Keilholz’s experience go here.