Nicest Places in America
Jefunne/ShutterstockWe've picked our leading candidates in each state—but maybe you live in or know about another Nicest Place in America. Click here to tell us about it, and your hometown could end up on the cover of Reader's Digest!
Clay County, Alabama
Syda Productions/ShutterstockReader's Digest has named Troy, Alabama in the past, but this year we're looking at Clay County. With a population of less than 6,000, it's home to more National Guard volunteers than anyplace else in Alabama and was dubbed the "Volunteer County" during the Gulf War. Each month, the county seat (Ashland) holds a "Fun Day." When local 21-month-old resident Eli Sims was diagnosed with liver cancer, the community rallied around the little boy and his family, hosting fundraisers, prayer meetings, and generally making them feel loved and cared for at a time when they truly needed it. Find out how these children help the sick kids in their hometown. Do you live in one of the Nicest Places in America? Tell us about it, and your hometown could end up on the cover of Reader's Digest!
EQRoy/ShutterstockIf you happen to be in Alaska, look around: Two out of every three Alaskans you see engage in some kind of volunteerism. But the odds may be even higher in Anchorage, which goes out of its way to match its residents with volunteer opportunities—even when Anchorage's major social service providers say they're full up with volunteers! Honorable mention goes to Ketchikan, Alaska, where the sight of a pedestrian pausing on the main road led to traffic stoppage in all directions as drivers waved her across the road.
Paradise Valley, Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock"Without a doubt, Paradise Valley is the most charitable place in the state," says Beth McRae, a former chair of the Phoenix Heart Ball, one of Phoenix's most prominent charity events. Paradise Valley residents rank among the most avid supporters of charity events in the Phoenix area, and while it's an affluent community, its residents view support of charities as not only writing checks but also actually doing the hands-on volunteer work. But let's not forget about Prescott, home of some of Arizona's bravest firefighters ever.
mmckinneyphotography/ShutterstockIf you've never heard of Pocahontas, Arkansas, here's what you need to know about its community-minded residents: when the town was hit by historic flooding in the spring of 2017 that threatened to blow through a levee and destroy 56,000 bushels of rice, corn, and soybeans that sat in Weitkamp Farms' grain bins, they spent 28 hours straight moving all 56,000 bushels. They finished just hours before the levee broke.
Karunyapas/ShutterstockWhile Los Angeles is truly the "City of Angels," according to Travelocity, it's Chester that comes together annually for a 34-mile endurance challenge on wheels—any kind of wheels, but especially wheelchairs—to benefit locals with physical disabilities.
Jeff Zehnder/ShutterstockSalida is home to both artists and ranchers. That helps explain the annual Christmas-time decoration of Tenderfoot Mountain and events like Salida Soup, a pot-luck booster for non-profits. (Plus, their stop-sign ritual could make even the most impatient among us pause and nod politely.) That said, we also give a nod to Boulder, where "no gently used bicycle part ever gets thrown away" because of local not-for-profit, Community Cycle, which has created a "culture of re-cycling" old bikes into "new" (thanks for letting us know, Alisa Schwartz!).
West Hartford, Connecticut
Dan Hanscom/ShutterstockWest Hartford has been voted one of the best places to live in numerous surveys... with good reason, according to resident Greg Patchen. West Hartford not only has a reasonable cost of living, diversity, and ample community recreation opportunities, it's also the center of a movement to build the first baseball field accessible to all children (even those with profound physical disabilities). Kudos also to North Branford which had more than 70 residents write to tell us about their town's wonderfully huge heart.
Nagel Photography/ShutterstockDover is Delaware's capital city: Delaware governor John Carney and First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney have led the charge to make Delaware a better place for children with the First Chance Delaware initiative. The goals include ending childhood hunger, promoting literacy, and raising awareness of—and effective responses to—adverse childhood experiences.
J. Louis Bryson/ShutterstockHer sons survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but Meredith Buchwald still sees Parkland as the same idyllic town that drew her in with its community spirit, and yes, its safety. The tragedy at the high school didn't destroy the community, she says, but rather brought everyone together in the spirit of love, kindness, support, and activism. That activism includes the creation of Parents Promise to Kids (PPTK) by Meredith's son Adam Buchwald and Brian Hibschman. PPTK asks parents to promise their children they'll vote responsibly, which includes considering candidate stances on such issues as age requirements for gun ownership. Don't miss one teacher's brilliant strategy for ending school shootings once and for all.