As we head into June and the start of summer, it seems an apt time to pause and acknowledge some of our blessings.
It's been a tough year in many ways, but as the clouds part and the sun shines down, it serves as an apt metaphor for all the glorious aspects of life in Northeast Georgia.
Not that we're ungrateful for the rain. Weeks and weeks of it have filled our creeks and streams and have Lake Lanier threatening to lap up near full pool before the summer heat begins to take its toll. And our lawns and gardens are as green and lush as we've seen in two years.
A full Lanier also will be a boost to the area economy. Like other communities, ours has suffered its share of job losses, business closures, housing foreclosures and the subsequent impact of all of that on real people. But the worst may be behind us. The jobless rate has steadied, as has the housing market, and the summer and fall tourist seasons could be the spark we need to get things moving.
And though gas prices have ticked up a bit before the summer travel season, at $2.35 or so a gallon they still are about half what they were at last year's peak.
Our summer season unofficially began with the annual Memorial Day parade in downtown Gainesville. Though wet weather put a bit of a damper on the event, hundreds of folks lined the streets to watch bands, floats and our cherished military veterans, whose service we're always proud to celebrate. Our community always has shown its appreciation to our heroes in uniform and did so again.
That appreciation was showed in a different way by members of The Rock Church in Flowery Branch. The congregation chipped in to raise money and organize care packages to U.S. Marines serving in Iraq with the Air Support Squadron, Unit 78077. Cpl. Timothy Donovan's mother, Stacie Donovan-Vise, is the church's administrator, and came up with the idea along with fellow staff member. The youth group and others raised money and filled boxes with snacks and treats for the Marine unit.
Another local church has reached out to help a different cause. The National Coalition for Burned Churches, now based in Gainesville, offers assistance to churches that have been burned down. Many small rural churches don't have insurance to rebuild, so the local group, headed by the Rev. Rose Johnson-Mackey, helps with physical and spiritual support. That's a true definition of Christian love and charity, and their efforts are appreciated.
It's also the season for graduations, as high schoolers head off to college and college grads try to make it in the real world. One constant even during the economic downturn has been the flow of scholarship money to worthy students provided by local businesses, civic clubs and charitable foundations. That's money well spent, an investment in our future, and worthy our appreciation.
The giving hearts in our hometowns that we have celebrated before showed their colors again at a slew of spring charity fundraisers. This year's Relay For Life fundraisers for the American Cancer Society drew more participants than ever, both individuals and corporations, showing that Northeast Georgians will always open their wallets and go to work for a good cause. All told, the events in Hall, Dawson, Forsyth and Jackson counties have brought in more than a quarter of a million dollars for cancer research.
And sometimes we feel thankful even in loss. That's the case for all whose lives were touched by Mike Adcock, the late coach and educator at three Hall County schools who tragically died last week. In his coaching career at West Hall and Flowery Branch high schools, and his time as an assistant principal at Johnson High, Adcock became one of the county's most popular figures. As a coach, his quest for success on the basketball court was balanced by his jovial nature and his love for his players and students.
When Mike suffered a serious car accident last summer, it touched off an outpouring of affection from across the area, which continued through his grueling recovery and numerous surgeries. He was able to take part in a 5K fundraiser a few weeks ago to raise money for survivors of vehicle accidents, showing his willingness to do for others even during his own struggles.
His loss is painful and tragic, but he had a positive impact on many young people over the years who will never forget him. We join them in offering our thoughts and prayers to his wife and children.
We hope they will find, as we all do, that even when times are dark and troubles mount, the sun is waiting behind a cloud to shine down on us. Our church members, our hard-working educators, our brave soldiers and the efforts of volunteers far and wide will always keep life on the sunny side here in our little slice of heaven.