Columbiana mayor, sheriff pitch in at Pa Paw’s

By EMILY BECKETT / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – May 18 was far from typical for Wayne “Pa Paw” Raia, owner of Pa Paw’s Restaurant in Columbiana, as dozens of hungry customers poured in to benefit tornado victims from noon to 1 p.m.

All proceeds from the hour-long fundraiser went directly to people affected by the recent tornadoes.

“I haven’t had this much fun in 26 years,” Raia said. “It went better than I thought it would. I had some good help today.”

Raia was not alone in serving the supporters.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe, Sheriff Chris Curry, Chief Deputy John Samaniego, state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, and Capt. Ken Burchfield donned yellow T-shirts Pa Paw designed as they took orders, delivered drinks and served food to local masses.

“I’m having a ball,” Lowe said, pausing after collecting a stack of lunch plates. “I’ve baled hay, I’ve done yard work. Never have I waited tables.”

Ceaseless chatter among old friends filled the restaurant as countless customers filled the tornado relief donation jar on their way out.

“The generosity of the people (in Columbiana) is unbelievable,” Raia said. “The turnout today showed that they will help each other.”

The restaurant received many large donations, which Nancy Raia, Pa Paw’s wife, recorded on a yellow poster board hanging above the order window.

The Raias donated the first $100.

Edwards Chevrolet made a donation of $300, the largest donation of the day.

The “waiters” also accepted tips for the relief fund.

“(It has been) a little hectic,” Curry said, “But fun.”

Raia said he is hosting another tornado relief donation day at his restaurant May 26, from noon to 1 p.m.

“We try to help the community,” Raia said. “I want to give back to this town what they gave to me.”

Lowe and the City Council will be waiters for the May 26 event.

“It’s just another way Columbiana likes to help,” Lowe said, “Because sooner or later, it will be us.”