On this final week of 2018 and also the first week of 2019, I’m going to resurrect a column theme I have used in the past as a way to reflect back on the past year and congratulate some of the local persons and organizations which have made a positive difference in our local communities, and who therefore deserve a public pat on the back. I call it the Good Guys/Good Girls/Good Groups Awards.

I take complete responsibility for the selections as they are completely subjective and based on my frame of reference, my opinions, and what I can remember while I am typing. I am the one-man nominating committee, the one-man selection committee, and the sole writer of the column. All decisions are final, but subject to public scrutiny as there are many other possible selections which are also worthy. Obviously, it’s not my intent to slight any other achiever or do-gooder.

This week’s column salutes three community groups. All three have not only performed worthy services, events and projects that have benefited their local communities, but their examples have positively influenced others to contribute as well. These recipients are: The Oak Hill Christmas Decorations Committee; the Wellston Main Street organization; and the Cultivating Our Future group in Jackson.

Oak Hill Christmas Decorations Committee – Under the chairmanship of Oak Hill Village Councilman Tim McCoy, four different groups -- Oak Hill Village officials (Mayor Rob Leonard and Village Council), the Oak Hill Area Chamber of Commerce, the Oak Hill Historical Society, and the Oak Hill Festival of Flags Committee -- formed a coalition with the aim of conducting a fund drive to purchase new lighted Christmas light-pole decorations for the village.

The group did not start with a big pot of money or any large single donation; members would have not only had to do the legwork in planning the project, but would have also had to conduct a community fund drive to actually pay for the decorations. Organizers anticipated it would take several years to sell all the decorations needed to cover the town, but were thrilled when individuals, businesses and organizations stepped up to get the job done in a single year, with 40 decorations purchased.

The new Christmas pole decorations were a focal point of one of the largest and best Christmas-season celebrations in Oak Hill history on Sunday, Dec. 2, when the Oak Hill Historical Society also celebrated the lighting of 36 decorated Christmas trees in Central Memorial Park.

This Christmas decorations success story in Oak Hill would not have happened without the leadership of the four community groups and some key leaders in those groups, and it would not have happened if the many different elements of the community would not have responded by supporting it.

It shows what a small town can do when it’s fueled by a true group effort which is powered by civic pride.

Wellston Main Street Celebrations – Principally, the private-sector Wellston Main Street organization was founded several years ago by Wellston residents Charlie Hudson (the current president), Mayor Connie Pelletier and Vicky Crabtree for the purpose of revitalizing Wellston’s historic downtown business district.

That’s a very worthy objective which could result in some very great dividends for Wellston, and there have already been some success stories and positive momentum established. Some new businesses are making a go of it in the historical business district; new owners plan to renovate the former Louvee Theatre and property owners in general are being encouraged to improve the condition and appearance of their properties.

Main Street, however, has been willing to do much more for the community and has functioned as a civic group as well as a business group. One of its greatest contributions has been the willingness of its members to found, plan, organize and conduct what has become two very popular community holiday celebrations -- “Christmas Treats on Wellston Streets” in early December and the “Celebration of Our Nation” event in honor of the 4th of July. This year marked the third year for “Christmas Treats on Wellston Streets” and the second year for “Celebration of Our Nation.”

Both day-long productions have been big deals with a succession of events and activities scheduled throughout the day, which have been successful in getting a host of organizations, businesses and individuals in the community involved. Not only were they well-organized holiday celebrations, but they focused extras attention on downtown Wellston and brought people in the community together for a positive purpose and a fun time.

Cultivating Our Future and Barbie McCathren – I don’t think I’m writing from a shaky limb when I make the claim that Barbie McCathren and her Cultivating Our Future group have done more than anybody else in the past couple of years to try to improve the appearance of Jackson and thereby cultivate a greater sense of community pride.

Like others in Jackson, McCathren heard the complaints about the need to beautify and spruce up Jackson, but unlike most others, she put her talk into action conducting beautification/cleanup projects and by forming a non-profit organization, Cultivating Our Future, with the aim of getting others involved and making it a community effort rather than an individual endeavor.

Cultivating Our Future is especially impressive because it did not spring from any existing organization or from any local government. It was one woman’s will and zeal to make her hometown a nicer-looking place to live. McCathren serves as its founder and president and her friend and fellow energetic do-gooder, Deanna Bragg, serves as the vice president; and McCathren’s daughter, Katie, is also at her side when there is work to be done.

Much of the good works have centered on the City of Jackson’s Manpower Park. McCathren and Co. conducted cleanup and beautification projects there and orchestrated the enhanced Christmas-season display in the park with the 76 decorated Christmas trees this year and the donation of the new, larger lighted decorations. They also spearheaded and collaborated with Jackson Mayor Randy Heath on securing Capital Funds from the state for the park, which will result in the construction of a perimeter sidewalk around the entire park, period lighting, new electrical wiring and a public-address announcing system.

Cultivating Our Future has also been responsible for the decorated scarecrows which dress up the downtown area in the fall months, mulching of the downtown trees, and cleanup work at Hammertown Lake. It’s no wonder that the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce selected Cultivating Our Future for its Community Pride Award earlier this year.

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That’s About It… Be Seeing You.

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(Columnist’s Note: More honorees will be saluted in the Jan. 2 Community Connection column.)