Community spirit alive, well

When you look at many of the stories that are in today’s edition, you’ll find several items that help make our area a good place to live.

On Page 1D, for instance, you’ll find Janice Kiaski’s story about a company that, while it now exists in a different form, stands as a tribute to one of a strong community’s biggest assets – the willingness of residents to help one another when times get tough.

For more than 100 years, the Richmond Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Co. helped farmers in Island Creek, Ross, Salem and Springfield townships take care of their own. That company grew from modest roots – it listed assets of $10.35 in 1895 with an insurance in force total of $288.33 – to the point that it had about 150 policyholders when it merged with the Sandy and Beaver Valley Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Co. on Jan. 1.

Her story explains how the company has allowed farmers to join together and help insure each other against loss and how the business evolved in a span that covered parts of the 19th and 21st centuries and all of the 20th century.

The local branch is now called the Richmond Insurance Agency, and the local office is part of the Lisbon-based company.

And then on Page 1E, Kiaski offers an update on the activities of the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley, the Wheeling-based organization that has served Jefferson County since its merger with the Community Foundation of Jefferson County in 2012.

According to Susie Nelson, the executive director, the foundation has worked since 1972 to “connect people who care with causes that matter by making grants to organizations working to improve the Upper Ohio Valley.”

It has been very successful in its work – showing assets of more than $30 million, the foundation assisted in making more than $1.7 million in charitable grants last year.

Janice’s story about how the foundation works (including its Jefferson County Advisory Committee, of which I am a member), also offers details at a special event that community foundations across the United States will participate in on May 6 – the Amazing Raise. Planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the community foundation movement in the United States, the event has a simple goal – to raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits in a 24-hour period.

There are matches involved on the local and national level, which means that donors to nonprofit agencies that have registered to be a part of the event will see each dollar donated that day become worth more than just a single dollar.

The foundation and the Amazing Raise – two more examples of neighbors helping neighbors.

Also inside today’s edition, you’ll find the first installment of our annual Progress Edition. Carrying the theme of “Progress 2014: Proud. Strong. Changing,” the annual edition features profiles of area businesses and organizations and looks at their accomplishments and plans for the future.

The remaining four sections will be inserted on Wednesday, Feb. 12, Feb. 19 and Feb. 26.

Our Progress Edition shows that, despite what you might have heard, there’s plenty of positive activity in our area.

And finally, there’s a story on Page 1A that reminds area residents they are invited to come to Eastern Gateway Community College at 5 p.m. Tuesday to hear the official announcement of the person who will present the April 3 program in the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series. In addition to being a part of the announcement, those in attendance will be able to see a free showing of the Academy Award-nominated film “Captain Phillips.”

The series, which began in November 2012, offers local residents a chance to experience world-class speakers in Steubenville – and that’s something you don’t often see in communities our size.

The subjects of all of these stories – from the Richmond Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Co., to the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley, to the Progress Edition to the speaker series – all carry a common theme – they show the good things that can happen and the differences that can be made when friends and neighbors come together and work to improve the quality of life in our communities.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)