On the last Sunday of each month, this board generally dedicates the community editorial to reflecting on things we’re thankful for in Laramie and Albany County. With the holiday season wrapping up, there’s plenty that comes to mind.

December’s holidays always seem to bring out the best in communities like ours. While there is a lot of attention given to consumerism (retailers nationwide did have a successful month), we’ve been thinking more of late about the acts of selflessness in our community. With so many people dedicating time and money to making sure those in need have joyful celebrations around Christmas time, we cannot possibly give kudos to every charitable initiative, but we wanted to mention a few that had our attention.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a hearty meal around Christmas time, but the volunteers preparing dinner at the Laramie Elk Lodge No. 582 make sure those in need can enjoy the holiday with full bellies. The Hahn family, who has been volunteering at the community Christmas dinner for over 20 years, are a shining example of how we can make our lives more fulfilling through service to others. Interfaith-Good Samaritan’s annual Christmas dinner distribution also helps with those who can’t afford a lavish spread on the holiday. We are likewise always impressed with the Toys for Tots program, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, which collected toys for more than 200 local families this year. While children are usually on the receiving end of holiday charity, we were happy to read about Alyssa Mitchell, a local four-year-old who used her piggy bank money to buy ingredients for baked goods she then sold to raise money for the needy. Alyssa did this after she asked her father why there was a food drive taking place at a local grocery store, and after understanding some people needed help to have a happy holiday, dedicated her efforts to doing what she could. It was a truly thoughtful act from a remarkable young lady.

We know many of our neighbors sponsored families for the holidays while some took in neighbors, coworkers and others. A multitude of reasons lead to some of our locals not having loved ones around them during the holidays, and these acts of kindness can help remedy that.

Some of our locals also make sacrifices by working on holidays each year. Firefighters, police, hospital staff, service industry workers and more have to be on the job on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day while most are spending time relaxing with loved ones. It’s important we as a community acknowledge how thankful we are for that. A particularly striking example of this came in the form of our Albany County Search and Rescue team that worked over Christmas trying to locate snowmobilers who didn’t return to their lodging. The snowmobilers were eventually found unharmed due to the efforts of people willing to give up time with their families so that we can have a high degree of public safety.

Beyond acts of selflessness, our hearts are warmed by all the holiday performances at our local schools, the art museum, institutions of faith and community service organizations. Music is an important part of the holiday season, and it doesn’t get much better than hearing children’s voices sing and watching them dance and act. Our sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who puts these events together. Some of us on the board were fortunate enough to attend the University of Wyoming’s performance of The Nutcracker, which was a real treat. The amount of hard work that goes into the performance was evident throughout. One of Laramie’s gems, the Laramie Plains Museum, also invited guests to an open house complete with complimentary tours, entertainment and refreshments as a gift to the community. We also continue to admire UW President Laurie Nichols’ annual open house event that invites folks in the university community to spend some time together. The downtown area truly came alive Dec. 7 for the Christmas parade and all the surrounding events. It was cold, but that didn’t deter locals from coming out for the fun. All of these events and more show what a tight knit community we have and earn our appreciation.

On a slightly more somber note, we appreciate the Wreaths Across America that helps us remember the sacrifices of military service members during the holiday season. Many in our community spend Christmas each year with the void of a loved one who died in service to our country, and we think this event helps with the grief those folks feel. It’s just a fact that when a person chooses to serve, his or her family serves too, making their own difficult sacrifices.

There’s so much more we’re thankful for this year, but in the interest of brevity, we’ll leave it there. Thank you to everyone who made sacrifices this year to make the Christmas season jollier than it would have otherwise been. It’s a testament to how great our community is and why we should be thankful to live here year round.

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