10 Daytonians of the Week who inspired us in 2020

Kindness, humor and courage — in many forms — are among the common themes running through the Daytonian of the Week profiles of 2020.

The weekly Dayton.com feature, told in Q & A form, puts the spotlight on individuals who help make the Dayton area a special place to live.

Told in their own words, the personal narratives look at the countless ways the community continues to help each other in the aftermath of the Oregon District shooting and the Memorial Day tornadoes, and as we persevere during a deadly, calamitous pandemic.

We’ve compiled some of our inspiring Daytonian of the Week profiles of people who have made the community proud.

Jeremy Ganger

Credit: Libby Ballengee

Credit: Libby Ballengee

“Get inside! Get inside!” Jeremy Ganger, a bouncer at Ned Peppers yelled on his radio, warning his fellow co-workers as a gunman fired shots in the Oregon District Aug. 4, 2019.

“Get down and lock the doors,” he commanded and then decided in an instant to not take his own advice. He stayed outside to put himself between the shooter and the approximately 250 people sheltering inside.

“I stood there and I was like, ‘I guess I’m gonna die, but you’re not coming in here.’”

Ganger, who was hit by shrapnel during the shooting, also paid a heavy emotional toll but is dedicated to continue helping others.

Mary Miller

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

For 45 years, Mary Miller has greeted tens of thousands of diners at some of the Dayton area’s most well-respected restaurants.

She wasn’t a hostess. She was the owner — and she still is.

Miller founded The Barnsider in North Main Street in Harrison Twp. in 1975. Decades later she and her brother opened The Wellington Grille in Beavercreek followed by The Blue Berry Café in Bellbrook and Harrison’s in Tipp City.

What advice does she have for a restaurateur just starting out? “They should work in a restaurant first,” she wrote. “ALL positions. Then, be committed to the business and to your job. Be prepared to work ALL the time and always try to be fair as you possibly can.”

Jonah Sandler

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

In 2012, Jonah Sandler, a Chicago native raised in Cincinnati, opened what would become an epicenter of fun for families across the Miami Valley and beyond.

The vision was at first murky, but Sandler’s dream was to help his father convert a building that his father and partners owned into an entertainment center. That center would open as the first Scene75 in 2012.

Extensive damage from the 2019 Memorial Day Tornadoes that tore through the Miami Valley closed Scene75′s first location at 6196 Poe Ave. in Dayton for over a year. But recently, in the midst of the pandemic, the entertainment venue opened its doors again.

MacKenzie Manley

The owner of Mack’s Tavern took a “paper-scrap idea” and opened her own bar with the help of family and friends.

“My background in the industry is pretty simple: alcohol is in my blood,” said owner MacKenzie Manley who bartends, cooks, funs errands, party plans and fixes things at her business.

Manley said her biggest challenge so far has been “how to re-invent your business so it doesn’t close, and how to keep your customers safe.

“I have cried many tears and tried every idea I can think of to keep my dream alive,” she wrote. “Rona: We will continue to fight to be here on the other side of all this.”

Dawne Dewey

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

Dawne Dewey has safeguarded our history for decades.

Recently retired, she was the head of Special Collections & Archives at Wright State University, home to the largest Wright Brothers Collection in the world as well as millions of records, documents and photographs.

“The one thing that has always struck me about Dayton’s history is that ordinary people, going about their lives, did some pretty extraordinary things,” she wrote.

Dewey met many well-known people through her work. A favorite was actor Tom Hanks.

“When he leaned in to say goodbye at the end of his visit, he said, ‘I took something from the archives, and you have to figure out what it is.’”

Bob Byers

Bob Byers is a seasoned veteran of the local restaurant scene, having owned and operated Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers for two decades and currently owning Carmel’s and The Somewhere Lounge in Dayton.

Like restaurant owners throughout the Miami Valley, Byers has found creative ways to keep his businesses afloat during a coronavirus pandemic - like adding dishes such as lasagna and roast chicken to Carmel’s Mexican menu.

“I’m too old to be reinventing myself like this all the time, but what choice do I have?” Byers wrote.

Donna LaChance

Donna LaChance has affectionately been dubbed the “cruise director” of Dayton’s McPherson Town Historic District.

When Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order began in March, LaChance organized weekly “walkabouts” for neighborhood residents.

What started out as a game of “Simon Says” played in the street expanded to twice weekly community word scrambles, games of “Name That Tune” and searches for superheroes in the neighborhood.

LaChance wrote she believes “each of us has the responsibility to care for others.”

Nicole Smith

Nichole Smith knows what it means to fight and what it means to give back.

The breast cancer survivor now works for the nonprofit that she says provided more than help with housework and meals when she needed more.

“They are just so giving of their time and their hearts,” the Sugarcreek Twp. resident wrote of the Pink Ribbon Girls. “I could not imagine being anywhere else.”

Smith’s job is to ensure quality of programs for clients in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Northern Kentucky, the St. Louis, Missouri area, and San Francisco Bay Area in California as Pink Ribbon Girls director of programming.

Megan Smith

St. Anne the Tart, a café and bakery in Dayton’s St. Anne’s Hill historic district, is so much more than just a place to get coffee.

“St. Anne the Tart was an opportunity to contribute to the story of a community,” wrote founder Megan Smith.

“How are we creating an environment for others to feel valued and seen? How are we championing others from the platform we have? How am I developing team members to go on and do amazing things in their career? What actions are we demonstrating to deepen the connectivity in our community?”

Smith’s business model doesn’t believe these are “pie-in-the-sky notions,” she said. “It’s about small changes for the greater good. St. Anne the Tart exists to do our part in the cultural pilgrimage.”

Neenah Ellis

For more than a decade, we’ve heard Neenah Ellis’s voice on WYSO, the Miami Valley’s National Public Radio station.

Listeners dial in to “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” NPR programs recognized across the country, but WYSO is also known for its emphasis on original content.

“We hear our neighbors’ stories, and stories are vital to understanding each other,” she wrote. “Radio is a medium with the power to connect people.”

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