With the town of 1,200 in shock, area Lowe's stores responded immediately, providing buckets, garbage bags, water and tarps to help Millbury and surrounding communities clean up. Darcy Mueller, store manager at Lowe's of Perrysburg, contacted the schools and promised Lowe's would do whatever it took to help the students and town get back on their feet.
Soon, more than 80 volunteers from five area Lowe's stores were lining up to help the schools pick up the pieces. "From the beginning, they were reaching out to us,” said Christie McPherson, Lake Elementary principal. "The library was completely gutted, and thousands and thousands of books were stored in boxes. The Lowe's associates came in and essentially assembled the library."
Before long, McPherson said, Lowe's volunteers were pitching in again. "Whenever we needed help doing something else,” McPherson said, "they said, 'Sure, we'll do it.' "
A team of Lowe's Heroes disassembled 500 unused lockers at a nearby school and delivered them to Lake High's temporary home for the next two years, Owens Community College. Lowe's volunteers completed several other projects. Some donned hard hats and dug through an art room at the destroyed high school to salvage truckloads of art supplies. Others dug up the area around the elementary school playground where the tornado had blown glass and other debris. Lowe's Heroes put down more than 1,800 bags of gravel and mulch to make the playground safe again.
"They kept coming to us,” said Lee Herman, principal at Lake High School and Lake Middle School. "'What more can we do? Are there more projects? We'll send more people. Tell us what days you need us.' It was tremendous the support that they were willing to offer."
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation also contributed a $50,000 grant for the construction of new cafeteria for Lake Middle School and Lake Elementary School, as well as a new ticket booth for the high school and new playground equipment for the elementary school. Led by Lowe's of Perrysburg, Lowe's Heroes spent several weeks working to get the schools ready in time for the 2010–11 school year.
Nearly three months after the tornado, as they stepped in front of the sold-out stands at Lake High's football home opener, Lowe's employees received a standing ovation. The show of appreciation came as more than 80 Lowe's employees took the field to present the $50,000 grant. But the cheers were a collective thank-you for all the work that already had been done.
"The money is awesome, but it's really been a labor of love we have experienced from the Lowe's associates. It's been amazing,” McPherson said. "We can't begin to thank Lowe's. We really could not have opened on time without Lowe's help.”