KETTERING, Ohio - A long line of people snaked its way out the front door of Trent Arena Tuesday on the grounds of Kettering's Fairmont High School.
Several thousand people had come to see Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Snowflakes swirled through the air, occasionally changing places with raindrops. Temperatures were in the 30s, but a stiff wind made it seem colder.
Kettering resident Richard Rogers took it all in stride.
"We'll have to take what the good lord gives us and go on," he said.
Despite the meteorological challenges, many in line carried canned goods, while others toted non-perishable food. The donated items were destined for New York, New Jersey and other areas battered by Superstorm Sandy.
"We're praying for the victims of this horrific storm and hurricane," said Rogers' wife, Judy. "We're just so proud that our next president is here to support these people."
Romney put campaigning aside -- as did President Obama -- to concentrate on so many who have lost so much in the storm.
It was a delicate path for the former Massachusetts Governor to follow.
Oakwood resident Matt Kell said Romney had to convey a CEO tone like he did as head of Bain Capital years ago.
"He's led. He's been very successful at it," said Kell. "As a CEO he was able to deal with dramatic events like this."
Just before Noon, Romney walked out into the crowd and stood in the middle of tables which had been set up to receive donated items.
"Thank you so very much," he said in response to sustained applause. "I love you and appreciate you. Thank you so much."
There were no Romney/Ryan signs in sight. A large American flag was displayed behind a stage where Randy Owens of "Alabama" fame performed. A video board carried the American Red Cross logo and a number people could call to make storm relief donations.
"We've got people right now that are having some hard times because of this terrible hurricane and the storm that followed it," Romney said. "Your generosity will make a difference."
Romney reflected on his days as Massachusetts Governor when Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans were temporarily sent to Boston.
A plea went out for items to help those in need and the response was immediate and overwhelming, according to Romney.
"There were cars lined up -- people dropping off goods of all kinds -- some things that were temporary like food, but others that were permanent like TV sets and clothes," he said. "It was just amazing to see the turn out. It's part of the American way."
The Romney remarks took just a few minutes. Then, he stood side-by-side with Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman and began taking donations from individuals.
Each person was greeted with a handshake and a few warm words of thanks. Forty-five minutes later, the items were being boxed for shipment.
The tableau impressed supporters like Centerville resident Karen Seymour.
"I feel it wasn't at all a put-on act," she said. "It was sincerely how he would have responded if was running for office or if he was out on his own trying to help the relief effort. He was very honest and real."
Diana Best of Springboro said she thought Romney did a fabulous job.
"He was the Mitt Romney that everyone needs to see and wants to see," she said. "He was sincere. He was generous. He was kind. You could see it in his eyes and his face."
Both Romney and President Obama have scaled back campaigning during the storm, but within a few days each will be back on the trail seeking Ohio votes.
Polls indicate the race between the two is extremely close and that the Buckeye State could once again decide who will occupy The White House for the next four years.
Those at Trent Arena Tuesday have already made up their minds to back Romney.
"I think Obama kind of let a lot of people down," said Cindy Thompson of Miamisburg. "Most people aren't willing to let him try again for four more years."
Kettering's Ed Eckley put it another way.
"The days of going two terms and hope to get something done -- we just don't have that kind of time anymore," he said. "It's like a college football coach. You've got three or four years and if you don't get something done, you're gone."
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