Living through coronavirus: 16 stories about how our neighbors are living and coping

Everyone in our community will be affected by major changes in the coming weeks and months because of the coronavirus.

Journal-News columnist Rick McCrabb is documenting those stories with a series of personal profiles about how our neighbors are changing, adapting and living through these times.

Do you have a story to share, or know someone who does? Click here to jump to a form and submit your information that will be received privately by the Journal-News.

Here are the stories we’ve told:

Kellee Thomas, bunny suit wearer

Kellee Thomash

Don Brun and Kellee Thomas should be enjoying their first morning as Mr. and Mrs.

Then the most unwelcome wedding guest spoiled the party: Coronavirus the Wedding Crasher.

As a joke, Thomas bought a bunny suit for Brun in hopes he’d wear it while walking the dog. Luckily for him, the suit was too small.But it fit Thomas. Of course it did.

Read their story »

Michael Lawson, 8th birthday party recipient

Michael Lawson

You have to give Nate and Jess Lawson credit for being persistent about their son’s 8th birthday party.

Michael Lawson, a second-grader at Wildwood Elementary School in Middletown, was supposed to celebrate his birthday with a skating party at Skateway with his buddies.

For their son’s birthday, they are throwing a birthday party parade in hopes his friends, classmates, teachers and a few Middletown police officers can drive by, honk and wave.

Read Michael's story »

Dayton Lane Historic Area neighborhood

Dayton Lane Historic Area neighborhood

Since there will be no Easter egg hunts this year because of the coronavirus, one Butler County neighborhood is bringing the eggs to the children.

The Dayton Lane Historic Area Inc. is holding a Walking Egg Hunt through Easter, said Heather Hodges, organizer of the event. Hodges said she got the idea after reading about a similar event in her home state of New York.

Read their story »

Trenton GracePointe Nazarene Church community

Trenton GracePointe Nazarene Church

Roxann Greenfield, another GracePointe member, secretly contacted the congregation and said she had “a crazy idea” of having everyone type the pastor messages and placing them on the seats in the sanctuary.

“That way he and the rest of his crew will ‘see’ us and ‘feel’ us in the sanctuary while he brings his messages,” Greenfield said.

Read their story »

Meat markets change to meet new need

Dave's Quality Meats

In West Chester, Dave’s Quality Meats, in business for nearly 26 years, set sales records in March, said Abby Rowe, deli manager. She said sales exceeded those typically seen during the Christmas season.

“It’s been chaotic,” she said. “Insane. We couldn’t believe it. We were swamped here. Maybe this is our new normal. But we’re starting to get things figured out.”

Read their stories »

Chesterwood Village, retirement village

Chesterwood Village

The 300 residents at a West Chester retirement village grew up during a time when people penned hand-written letters, mailed them, then waited for a response.

Now those who live at Chesterwood Village are once again receiving letters, cards and drawings, but this time from strangers of all ages.

Read Chesterwood's story »

Mike and Debbie Dranschak, hand sanitizer makers

White Dog Distilling Company

Mike and Debbie Dranschak opened White Dog Distilling Company on Central Avenue in Middletown 16 months ago and they realized the retail bottle liquor business wouldn’t be enough to keep them open.

“We got worried how are we going to survive like everybody else,” Debbie Dranschak said. “We didn’t want to fall through the cracks.”

Exactly the opposite has happened.

Read their story »

Luke Richardson, birthday boy

Luke Richardson

Luke’s two sisters, Madilynn, 13, and Emma, 11, hid presents throughout the house and they created a scavenger hunt to see if he could follow the clues.

“His sisters were super sweet,” Samantha Richardson said.

His parents and two sisters also sang, “Happy Birthday” and watched as he opened presents, moments that were shared on cell phones with his four grandparents. One grandmother, Barb Kilburn, made him a cookie birthday cake that she handed him through a car window.

Read Luke's story »

D.J. Harper, restaurant operator

A Game Knight in Hamilton, Ohio

He decided to take steps to improve the food desert for local residents. He took bulk food orders for meat and other items and called Sysco and placed a large order. He sold the food at his cost.

The first order went “really well” and Harper plans another order for Friday. Orders can be placed on A Game Knight’s Facebook page, he said. He called that the “simplest way to order.”

Read D.J.'s story »

Eddie Planck, school bus driver

Eddie Planck

These are not good times in the Planck house.

Eddie Planck is out of a job, his wife will lose her job at a daycare center this week, he has two children to support and he misses the students who ride on his school bus, all casualties caused by the coronavirus.

Planck, 35, is a bus driver for the Lakota Local School District, and although he’s only been on the job for two years, he has become attached to the students he interacts with twice a day.

Read Eddie's story »

Latrecia Simmons and Joshua Reese, scheduled to be married

Latrecia Simmons and Joshua Reese

Latrecia Simmons said she will have “one heck of a story to tell” when people ask about her wedding.

Simmons and her fiance, Joshua Reese were supposed to get married and have their wedding reception April 11 at a Butler County banquet facility.

But like about everything else, the coronavirus pandemic has changed those plans.

Read their story »

Joel McDonald, trash collector

Joel McDonald

Joel McDonald touches what the public has tossed away.

And that includes used tissues and paper towels.

As a trash collector for Rumpke Waste & Recycling for 15 years, McDonald has changed the way he views some items through concerns about coronavirus.

Read Joel's story »

Jeffrey Jena, comedian

Jeffrey Jena

A Butler County comedian is paid to make his audience laugh, but Jeffrey Jena sees nothing funny about the coronavirus or the government’s response to the deadly disease.

Read Jeffrey's story »

Megan Halverson, teacher

Megan Halverson

Megan Halverson remembers a conversation she had with her teenage son about the significance of the coronavirus.

Eli, 16, a sophomore at Badin High School, told his mother: “This is crazy. You know how people in your life say, ‘Remember where you were on 9/11?’ Or, ‘Remember what you were doing when the Challenger exploded?’ This is the historic moment for me.”

His mother certainly agrees.

Read Megan's story »

Cora Thompson, teacher

Cora Thompson

Monday was the first day of at least two weeks that Middletown students will be taking classes remotely to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Thompson said some of her students don’t have computer access at home so she’s unsure how the lessons will be taught.

Read Cora's story »

Jenny Azwol, waitress


Azwol is a waitress at Gracie’s, a family-owned restaurant in downtown Middletown. Her reaction to Ohio closing restaurants and bars?

“Oh crap this is real now,” she said.

Read Jenny's story »

About the Author