Thursday, July 15, 2010

The end of June marked my second year as life and leisure editor/cub reporter for the Daily Times Herald. It was not long after joining the staff that columnist was also added to my title, and this little foray into the lives of the people of the Carroll area was added to the mix.

For someone not a native to the Carroll area, there was really no better way to learn the ins and outs of your wonderful communities than to do it through the people. Not only the people who live on the block, so to speak, but those who come to visit and leave their mark here as well.

I always said that the most fabulous thing about this job is the ability to simply talk to people and learn their stories. Each and every one of you has at least one good one in you, and it has always touched me to be trusted to share that story with others. I can only hope that I did you justice.

How apt it turned out to be that “Friends & Neighbors” was selected as the title for this column. When I began, everyone was a stranger. (OK, there were the exceptions of a high school business teacher turned information technology director and motorcycle guru at the high school and a vivacious and bubbly cheerleader turned notable Carroll media member, who arose from my past to greet me in Carroll.) Now, I have made many new friends and acquaintances, and my neighborhood has exponentially expanded.

It includes some pretty phenomenal people and some ordinary people who have done phenomenal things.

On a stroll through this neighborhood we will see a young girl who overcame a disability to become a pageant winner — and then go on to start her own pageant for other girls with disabilities. We would see a taste of the local talent, including folk singers and songwriters, published poets, local authors, 79-year-old painters hosting their own art shows, high school musicians who will travel the globe to share their talents and local students with artistic talents to spare.

We have met visiting artisans, from Elvis to a tenor who floats between classical and Irish folk music.

Who could ever forget the people who work behind the scenes to shape our communities? The teachers and administrators who go the extra mile for the good of the students, the charitable organizations working to end global hunger and to give a hand up by helping build a home, the community members who campaign for the betterment of their towns, the society members and clubs who keep our local history alive and the many religious organizations of the Carroll area that keep us all at the forefront of their mission.

It was not always easy to tell the stories that had been entrusted to me. Addressing the plight of the silent victims of domestic abuse was a particularly poignant and difficult experience. But perhaps the one that has left the most lasting impression with me was a story of unbelievable bravery in a 34-year-old woman who planned who would take care of her children after learning she was dying from cancer. Dawn Genter-Ashby lost her battle but became a treasured memory along the path we shared.

The one constant thing that I have seen while working with the people of Carroll and the surrounding communities is change, whether the people inspired change or change inspired the people. Ironically, it has also led to a change for me.

After spending two years walking along the block with you and then sitting down to type up what you have related to me along the way, I will be branching off onto a new career path. Beginning next week, I will be leaving the Daily Times Herald and will begin a new position with Manning Regional Healthcare Center as its new marketing/public relations director.

Like just about everything else in life, this new opportunity would not have been possible without the help of you, my friends and neighbors. And that includes my colleagues, no my friends, at the Daily Times Herald as well. In learning, laughing, crying and just plain living with all of you, I have grown as a professional, but more importantly as a person.

I have enjoyed our many walks through the neighborhood, and though the context may have changed, when you want to share a few moments, just say the word. I will always welcome the opportunity to take a long stroll with a friend.

Thank you all.