My hometown is so cool.
We have suffered some economic body blows over the past 30 years – many that would have knocked out even the best of fighters – but we’ve pulled ourselves up and have kept punching. And like almost every small (and big) town in America, drugs have us in a stranglehold.
I still love my hometown.
We still have dreams and some of the best people on the planet live here. I swear it’s true. They are kind, and generous, people who make a difference in lives with the skills that God has given them. If you need lifted up, somebody is there for you. I’m a witness to it happening having lived my entire life in this hometown of mine.
We have churches on every corner, like a lot of Smalltown America. Even though they’re not as full as they used to be and need to be, there’s a lot of heart still beating in these houses of worship. And they are beginning to reach out to the hurting communities in ways they never had to before. We have a lot of people hurting. And we have a lot of people helping.
Did I mention we have good people?
I could almost provide a daily update on how good.
Monday was one of those days. My hometown police department posted a Facebook photo of three officers and a young man standing in front of a new basketball goal. Beside the goal with the clear backboard all nice and shiny was a makeshift one with a plywood backboard and a milk crate nailed to it for the basket. Kudos to this boy and the engineer who made his makeshift basketball goal. This kid is obviously going to be a baller one day.
Instead of looking the other way, the officers took it upon themselves to help out this young man because they are community servants. They went to one of our local Walmarts and the manager donated a new basketball goal to the cause. The photo of the three officers and the boy has gone viral by now. It is certainly viral in my hometown. But it’s also what we do here.
Basketball is a big deal here too. Always has been. My hometown team went to the Sweet Sixteen last week and it seemed like most of the town went to Rupp Arena to celebrate with them. They won a game, then lost big. So what? Everybody cheered anyway. Maybe that's why the young man was practicing on a plywood backboard?
A few months ago, a convenience store closed and one of the workers who tirelessly made donuts and other meals for years there was out of work. Just like that. She owed $17,000 on a trailer she lived in and the debt was coming due.
A city commissioner in my town rallied the troops and enough was raised for her to pay off the debt so she could keep her home. Then she was offered a job cooking in the kitchen with a middle school in my hometown.
A few years ago, a grassroots volunteer organization started that works on projects to make my hometown an even better place to live. Countless hours have been generated by this group that wants nothing in return. They organize in Army-like sizes and skills and nothing is too small. It’s been something to witness them work. Army ants have nothing on them.
Those are the kind of stories that make my hometown special. Maybe it’s like your hometown, but I doubt it. Nothing is quite like this place.
The CEO of a fledging aluminum rolling mill being planned here had never heard of my hometown before two years ago, when he plucked us from a group of 24 wanting his business. He chose wisely and he knows it. He carries a lot of our hopes and dreams for the future on his back. He says hope is coming and we're taking him at his word. He is starting to understand how special my hometown can be and how the people here are well, to use an overused word, special.
Welcome to Ashland, my hometown.
We have good people here who care. Just ask the young man with a new basketball goal in his front yard compliments of three APD officers who took a situation into their own hands and did something about it.
That doesn’t happen everywhere. But it does here.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org