COVID-19 defines 2020 for Nordonia Hills

April Helms
Kent Weeklies

A headline in an early January edition of The News Leader read “Communities making big plans for 2020.”

This would prove ironic, as many communities and organizations saw their plans throughout the year get canceled or postponed.

This year saw a contentious presidential election, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the 50th anniversary of the May 4 shootings at Kent State University, the census and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

But overshadowing even all of these big events was a tiny virus, which first appeared in the nation early this year. In March, when the first cases of COVID-19 were officially found in Northeast Ohio, the virus led to the closure of government and school buildings, recreation centers, libraries and numerous  businesses. Many people found themselves carving out office space at home as they were told to work remotely. Many others faced furloughs and job loss.

The Nordonia Hills area had many noteworthy events this past year, many of them a direct or indirect result of the novel coronavirus. Here is a sampling of events from the past year, in no particular order.

1. Macedonia Recreation Center sees 20th anniversary – In February, the Macedonia Family Recreation Center center hosted an open house to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

In addition to the milestone anniversary, the center welcomed a new parks and recreation director, Jason Chadock, who took over from Angela Manley in June. Manley resigned after serving in that position since 2006.

The facility saw the completion of new locker rooms in early 2020. However, Chadock said other improvements planned for this year were put on hold.

“The family changing room project was initially paused as to allow the center a break from a long delayed locker room project,” Chadock said. “Later, mid 2020 it was decided to hold off until 2022 to begin the family changing room project as we rebound from continuously changing COVID – 19 operations.”

2. Public facilities forced to close – Government halls were closed to the public, school buildings were shuttered and classes continued online, library buildings were closed, and many other facilities such as the Macedonia Recreation Center were shut down in mid-March, when the state mandated the closure of such facilities to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many spring activities were postponed or cancelled. The Nordonia HIlls City Schools first postponed, then later cancelled, the 2020 prom. Graduation ceremonies were taped, then screened at Midway Drive-In Theater in Ravenna.

3. Memorial Day parade canceled – The new committee formed to organize the 2020 Memorial Day parade had to cancel the event due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

“It is with heartfelt regret that we are going to cancel the 2020 Memorial Day Parade and Ceremonies,” said Clint Ulrich, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Northfield Post 6768 and a committee member, wrote in a letter sent out to the community.

However, local veterans still gathered to remember fallen veterans at the Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery, and gathered at Nordonia Hills Veterans Memorial Park to perform a ceremony within social distancing guidelines.

4. Northfield Center seeks contractor for new facility – Northfield Center officials took another step forward in November in building a new township hall and safety facility.

Trustees OK’d seeking qualifications after criteria architect the Thrasher Group presented preliminary drawings for a proposed 10,053-square-foot building to be erected at the service department’s current garage and cold storage facility on Olde Eight Road.

Josh Lyons of the Thrasher Group, which has its nearest offices in Canton, outlined the preliminary plans for the estimated $1.25 million building. 

The township is looking to replace the current 100-plus-year-old Township Hall on Brandywine Road and adjacent fire station at 60 W. Aurora Road, the latter of which has fallen into disrepair. The proposed new site encompasses 4.26 acres.

5. Other projects postponed – The area saw several projects postponed due to the pandemic.

Late last year, Macedonia was looking at the possibility of four restaurants coming into the city. McAlister’s Deli would build on a lot east of Ohio Savings Bank, while Five Guys and Aladdin’s Restaurant will share a building on Macedonia Commons Boulevard just southwest of Cinemark Theaters. Swensons had planned to demolish the former Steak ’n Shake on Route 82 and build a smaller, drive-in structure.

However, Swensons later backed out; officials declined to comment as to the reason.

Macedonia Mayor Nick Molnar said that the three other restaurants “are all paused due to the pandemic.”

“Restaurants are struggling and it is my belief they are waiting for society to recover before moving forward,” Molnar said. “The [restaurants] have not given any indication that they decided to terminate the projects. We do, however, have Raising Cains coming to the planning commission for conceptual plans for the old Steak ’n Shake location.”

In addition, plans to expand the Northfield Village fire station were put on hold due to the pandemic, said Fire Chief Jason Buss.

“It is hoped that the process will resume in 2021,” Buss said.

The initial advertising for bids called for construction of about 3,850 square feet of new space on the first floor and 2,720 square feet on the second floor.

6. New monuments installed in Veterans Memorial Park – This fall, members of the Nordonia Hills Memorial Park Foundation unveiled three monuments dedicated to the wars involving the United States.

The monuments, which include photographs engraved on the polished slabs, are each dedicated to a war the nation has fought during its 244-year history.

Two of the new monuments are for World War II — the European, African and Middle East theaters and the Asiatic and Pacific theaters. The third is for the Korean War. They join previously installed monuments for the War on Terror — Afghanistan, Iraq and the Islamic State War — Vietnam and World War I.

The monuments are arranged along the outside of a half-circle concrete walkway on the park’s west side. The idea is that people entering the 3/4-acre park’s main entrance at the corner of Route 82 and South Bedford Road can walk the walkway and visit each monument in reverse chronological order.

7. Northfield Center hires new township administrator – A new township administer was appointed this fall. Helen Humphrys took over from Steve Wright, whose last day was Oct. 5.

“I applied for the job as administrator because I believe I can bring my experience of 37 years in township government to Northfield Center in its time of need for a new administrator,” said Humphrys. “I believe my experience with several government agencies solidifies my abilities to administer and carry out Northfield Center Township’s policies.”

8. Nordonia volleyball claims district title – The Nordonia Knights volleyball team qualified for its first regional tournament in more than 20 years.

“The last time Nordonia made it to regionals was either sometime in the 1990s or in the 1980s,” Nordonia head coach Tim Vasko said.

The Knights did not lose a single set in their Northeast 3 Division I sectional final and in their two district tourney matches.

The season would end, however, after losing to the Jackson Polar Bears in November. Nordonia finished its season at 23-2.

9. Lollipop Co-Op preschool celebrates 60 years -- The non-profit Lollipop Co-Op, which is run by the parents, is marking 60 years of providing preschool education. The preschool is within the United Methodist Church of Macedonia, and has state-licensed teachers.

The co-op got its start when a group of parents first got together in 1958 to begin exploring starting a cooperative preschool.

The preschool celebrated with an open house in February.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@theeaconjournal.com