NEW YORK: Reader's Digest today announced the town of Gallatin, Tennessee as the winner of its first "Nicest Place in America" contest. The community is featured on the cover of the November issue of the magazine with the accompanying feature story found both in the issue and online at www.rd.com/nicest.
Launched in April 2017 in partnership with Nextdoor, the private social network for neighborhoods, the "Nicest Place in America" contest is Reader's Digest's first national crowd-sourced search for exceptional places that are epicenters of community spirit and trust. The inaugural contest drew hundreds of nominations of physical locations from across America with stories that reflect a more civil, kinder American attitude.
"At a time when the country seems to be more divided than ever, we launched 'Nicest Places' as a way to counter that national dynamic," says Bruce Kelley, Editor-in-Chief of Reader's Digest. "We all know local places where neighbors help one another in good times and bad and where strangers are made to feel welcome. Reader's Digest wanted to celebrate those places that embody community spirit and remind us that trust and a sense of belonging, rather than division and incivility, is what binds us together as Americans."
"More and more, we are seeing people pull together at a national level when faced with tragedy," says Kelley." But that eagerness to connect exists every day at the local level, in small towns and city neighborhoods all across America."
Located just outside of booming Nashville, the winning place of Gallatin is a farm-community-turned-suburb of nearly 40,000 residents with a commitment to diversity, charity work, and an overall culture of kindness. In 2016, the town rose above adversity in the wake of a police shooting that threatened to be a catalyst for major conflict. The once-segregated community, rather than descend into the finger-pointing or violence that have afflicted other cities and towns, hosted a prayer vigil outside of city hall that drew civic and religious leaders from across the town's diverse communities.
"Gallatin was one of hundreds of places eager to share their stories of people instinctively putting community ahead of themselves," says Kelley. "Never was this more apparent than in the wake of a terrible shooting, when the people of Gallatin decided against the 'us against them' anger and suspicion of the past and instead chose peaceful and civil dialogue to move forward as a community."
Kelley notes that the ten finalists were a mirror of the "compassion and generosity that is at the core of America's values and sense of belonging." Among the finalists are places like Providence, Rhode Island, where residents gather to shine their flashlights to the windows of a local hospital as a way of signaling support for children undergoing cancer treatment; Pflugerville High School, in Texas, which has stamped out teen cyber-bullying and built a better school community; and Shorewood, Wisconsin, where a local group of families has turned a local online bulletin board into a no-judgment zone offering emotional and financial support to its virtual community of young mothers.
The ten editor-selected "Nicest Place" finalists were announced in June 2017, when voting was opened to the public, resulting in over 300,000 views and close to 80,000 votes, more than 30,000 of them cast for Gallatin. Reader's Digest editors then considered this voting tally along with its in-depth reporting on the finalist places—plus the input of Platinum-selling Country artist Brett Young, the contest's celebrity judge—to select the "Nicest Place in America."
"I was happy to be a part of recognizing places that celebrate and embrace kindness," says Young. "It's important to highlight places that value being good to one another and I'm glad that there is a spotlight on these inspiring communities."
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