It occurred to me in the course of The Times-Gazette’s first-hand coverage of numerous events over the past week how much our citizens are engaged in problem solving, future planning and lifting people up.
On Tuesday, during two sets of sessions throughout the day, dozens of “stakeholders” – business owners and various officials — met around the table with Mayor Drew Hastings to discuss the possibilities presented by creating a redevelopment district in the uptown area, with ideas ranging from a sorely-needed new hotel to offering better parking options to an entertainment district to attract more young people. The discussions will go on and more ideas will be welcomed.
On Wednesday, about 20 people gathered at the same location – the North East Street fire station – to discuss with city council members what to do with the space left by the demolition of the Colony façade and front lobby. A popular idea seems to be the construction of a small park or patio, with outdoor movies shown in recognition of the site’s history. Other ideas are being considered, but the ultimate decision will be based on public input from citizens who care.
On Thursday, the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition met again at the county health department in furtherance of a plan to reduce drug abuse, implement treatment strategies and organize community-wide advocacy efforts. The group, comprised of local public health officials, treatment professionals, law enforcement officers and faith-based representatives, meets monthly to exchange ideas and share resources in the fight against drug abuse.
Later Thursday, about 50 people gathered along East Walnut Street in Hillsboro for the formal dedication of Curtis Lane, honoring citizens who made our community better by fighting for the rights of children to have equal education opportunities. Speaking about today’s youngsters, Eleanor Cumberland, daughter of Imogene Curtis, a leader in the mothers’ marches of the 1950s, said, “Never let them forget that there were large and small sacrifices for the privileges they enjoy today.”
Virtually all who attended these various meetings and gatherings were focused on doing their part to make Hillsboro and Highland County a better place to live. Such citizen activism is not just on display occasionally. Across Highland County, involved residents work every week on projects and events designed to better their communities.
Service clubs like Rotary and Lions meet every week and work year-round on various projects that are often under-publicized but which make a difference in many lives.
Countless volunteer organizations provide food banks and back-to-school backpack giveaways. Groups like the amazing SATH and the volunteers who make KAMP Dovetail one of the most impressive events of each year are special beyond description.
The volunteer organizers of the Amazing Race of Highland County devote themselves to providing thousands of dollars of needed funds each year to participating non-profit organizations. The upcoming “Smokin’ in the Hills” barbecue event will be a volunteer-run activity, with help from Rotarians and the local senior citizens center, that brings national attention to Highland County and sets the stage for annual growth with each ensuing event.
Often overlooked and taken for granted are the efforts of the many churches across Highland County which, in addition to their normal soul-feeding and faith-based initiatives within their own congregations, are often at the forefront of community drives that assist people and families in need.
Police and fire departments regularly provide fun and enriching activities, whether it’s a “water day” for local children to cool off during a hot summer, or “Shop with a Cop” activities to make Christmas a little brighter for kids. Our veterans organizations work tirelessly for the betterment of those who served and for the community at large, which enjoys its freedoms because of the sacrifices of those who wore the uniforms of our country.
Aside from the various organizations that enrich our county, plenty of people individually make our community better each week, from the local auctioneers who donate their time and talents for charitable fundraisers, to teachers who spend their own money to purchase classroom supplies for their students, to all those who lend their time and talents to youth civic and sports programs, to volunteers who are always the first to show up when help is needed, whatever the cause.
We often see jars in local stores reflective of neighbor-helping-neighbor fundraising efforts for someone stricken with cancer or another serious illness, because community members decided to take action to help their neighbor in need.
Every community has its naysayers and purveyors of discord and animosity. But our community is blessed with kind, loving people who far outnumber them, people who put aside their differences and look for the best in their neighbors and try to lend a hand up — people who are driven by love and kindness, not resentment and anger.
They band together to solve problems. They care about their towns and villages, from Hillsboro to Greenfield, from Lynchburg to Leesburg, from Mowrystown to Sinking Spring and all points in between. Highland County is filled with strong individuals who lift people up instead of putting them down.
We’re fortunate to live in such a place. It’s important to recognize the people and organizations that devote themselves to making this community the best in Ohio, and to appreciate how blessed we are.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.