A Miami medium announced the city's “Dirty Dozen” on Christmas Eve.

The collection of “dastardly scoundrels” (their words) is apparently a year-end holiday tradition for the Florida berg. They review bad actions, corruption, phonies and crooks. (Again, their words.)

While it may be a fun read, I see the new year as a clean slate. I prefer smiles, warm-hearted goodness and positivity from folks who make our world better just by being in it.

That's when I got the bright idea for Cumberland's Caring Crew, a collection of folks who brightened my year, gave me pause to smile, or shed a tear over their good deeds.

Like you, I've met many of them only on the pages of the Crossville Chronicle. But theirs are stories worthy of a repeat. 

Don Hazel is easily one of my favorite reads. In a volatile world filled with strife, he points out the natural beauty of our area every other week through his column in the Crossville Chronicle and Glade Sun. His insightful words about the Plateau's flora and fauna are enough to make you feel good about the world you live in, but Hazel took it a step further in 2019 when he convinced city and county governments to adopt the bluebird as our official bird. And it's more than lip service — he and the Tennessee Bluebird Society are monitoring more than 250 nesting boxes throughout the county.

Another frequent Chronicle and Sun contributor, Sharon Hilton, happily shares the fun things she's found to do in the community. Rarely a week goes by that we don't receive something from her publicizing clubs and interests. Kinseekers, Celtic Circle and Hebbertsburg Community Center's dinners and dances are among those she promotes and encourages others to attend. Hilton is also the church correspondent for Fellowship Baptist Church, where she just wrapped up the showing of more than 200 Nativity scenes, all of which are from her personal collection.

If there was ever an individual created for the job she fills, it's Holly Neal. She has headed up Cumberland County's United Fund for a number of years. The agency supports a number of community groups that help the area's downtrodden. Neal's sunny disposition and ever-ready smile gives those down on their luck a spring in their step and a feeling of confidence.

While Desiree Roach is paid by Cumberland Medical Center to be its nurse navigator for breast cancer patients, money can't buy the compassion she brings to the job. Breast cancer patients repeatedly told our reporters how she made one of the most difficult times of their lives a little easier by explaining medical and technical terms, holding their hands both literally and figuratively, and by merely being there.

I hope you read Gary Nelson's account of Willene Henry and the CF Storehouse in the Christmas issue of the Chronicle. If you didn't, read it now. It could not have been in a more appropriate issue. The time and devotion she gives to the homeless and needy is one of the more Christ-like depictions I've read in a long time. She's an angel, period.

That same issue gave us two more instances of people who make Cumberland County an awesome place to live. Imagine being a bright-eyed child merely going to a holiday parade but leaving with a bicycle. That was the reality for a number of area youngsters at this year's Christmas parade, thanks to Jeff Proffitt and his business, Proffitt Trucking. One of the Proffitt rigs that was part of the parade lineup made occasional stops in its downtown procession to randomly gift bikes to boys and girls along the route.

John Conrad kicked off our Volunteers in Action section. Thanks to his work — all on a voluntary basis — folks around Cumberland County have more venues for hiking, and they have an opportunity to participate in a hiking marathon at their own pace. His work to build trails led to trail-blazing adventures during which he leads tours at home and throughout the Volunteer State. This year's Center for Lifelong Learning gives us all a chance to bone up on a number of topics and matters.

Though technically not a Cumberland Countian, Sister Mariana Koonce has made life a lot better for a lot of folks. She brings her St. Mary's Legacy Clinic to Crab Orchard twice monthly to offer free medical care to low-income patients. Her clinic is the primary care provider for many people, and it looks to make their lives better with medical treatment and education.

I look forward to meeting more members of Cumberland's Caring Crew in 2020. The people are key to a community's success, and these eight are bright spots we're sure will shine into our hearts and the new year.

Happy New Year!

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