Winter car wash to benefit Reynoldsburg 4th of July

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Memories of lawn chairs dotting the streets, drum cadences thumping out a beat and the easy banter of friendly neighbors led to what is probably Reynoldsburg’s first-ever "winter" car wash to raise money for the community’s Fourth of July celebration.

The fundraiser will be held March 15 at First Service Federal Credit Union, 7610 E. Main St.

Benjamin Johnson, a 1998 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School and now the business development manager for First Service Federal Credit Union’s Reynoldsburg branch, said he was driven to organize the fundraiser after learning last year’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks were cancelled due to budgetary issues.

"I came over to the Reynoldsburg branch of First Service from the Groveport branch," Johnson said. "One of my primary functions is to get involved in the community. When I came here, I had a stack of papers on my desk – and one was about the Fourth of July. I could not believe my eyes that you couldn’t have the Fourth of July parade and fireworks. It’s an experience – you have to do that as an American."

In response to the cancellation of the event, a group of concerned citizens banded together to form the Reynoldsburg Community Association, with the goal of bringing back the parade in 2008 and both the parade and fireworks in 2009.

"My initial thought was ‘We’ll write them a check,’ " Johnson said. "But then I realized that wasn’t enough."

The Reynoldsburg Community Association recently sponsored a community dinner event among local restaurants, which was touted as "Fourth of July in February" to play on a reversal of the traditional "Christmas in July" theme. That got Johnson thinking.

"I thought, ‘What a great idea. They’re trying to get everybody’s eyes forward,’ " Johnson said. "So I started looking at other things we traditionally do in summer."

A car wash is always a popular summer fundraiser, but with winter weather too chilly for volunteers to be out in the elements with hoses and buckets, Johnson soon came up with the idea of washing the interior of the car rather than the exterior.

"I would pay $50 to have someone clean out the inside of my car this time of year," Johnson joked, noting that the harsh winter has left its fair share of salt, dust and grime on the interior of his car. "I thought this is certainly something we can do and it harkens to the Fourth of July thing."

The former Eagle Scout contacted Boy Scout Troop 826, and they agreed to send 10-15 scouts to "wash" the interior of the car by vacuuming, polishing and applying interior protectant to cars for a $5 donation. Part of the proceeds will go to the troop.

Businesses besides First Service Federal Credit Union were also quick to help, Johnson noted.

"I only had to make five phone calls," he said. "Everyone just immediately said yes. It all came together so beautifully. I think it speaks volumes about how much the Fourth of July means to everyone."

Kirby Vacuums agreed to supply the vacuums, hoses and electrical cords; Jeg’s is providing cleaning supplies; BP Gas is sharing rags and paper towels; and Donato’s Pizza is providing the boys with an after-event pizza party. First Service will provide coffee, hot chocolate, punch and doughnuts inside their lobby to car owners while they wait.

Noting that the Reynoldsburg Community Association is hoping to raise $10,000 this year, Johnson said his goal is to generate at least $500, with 25 percent of the proceeds raised donated to the scout troop.

"I’m hoping for 100 cars," he said. "I think that would be fantastic."

Johnson encouraged all to stop at First Service, located at the intersection of East Main Street and Waggoner Road, to get their cars cleaned up while supporting the community.

"I’m really pleased with how many people have expressed interest already," he said. "I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s something that’s new. Plus, there’s no feeling like knowing you are part of something good."

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