New York, NY….Reader’s Digest unveiled today the 50 Nicest Places in America 2020: United in Kindness, stories of communities in every state where people have come together to make each other’s lives better. In response to the fourth annual search, conducted in partnership with neighborhood platform Nextdoor, readers submitted a record 1,177 stories of solidarity and hope as racial injustice and the COVID-19 global pandemic continue to impact communities nationwide.
As part of this year’s Nicest Places initiative, Reader’s Digest partnered with More in Common, a nonpartisan civic nonprofit committed to building a more united America, to survey Americans’ sentiments. Local communities remain a beacon of light for Americans across the nation, despite an overall decline in perceptions of unity at the national level. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, local communities have rallied to show support and gratitude for their fellow neighbors.
Highlights of the Reader’s Digest and More in Common poll findings include:
- Three in five Americans say they feel more proud of their local community;
- 76 percent say their local community is not more divided since the pandemic while 64 percent say the nation is;
- 28 percent of Americans have seen more acts of kindness in their communities;
- Four in five Americans believe doctors, nurses, grocery store staff and public transit employees deserve praise for their actions during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- 26 percent of people have chosen to spend more than usual at a local business to support it during COVID-19.
“When America faces tough times, people seek support close to home, pulling together as local communities and showing how they truly care for one another, regardless of race, gender identity, religion or anything else,” says Reader’s Digest Editor-in-Chief Bruce Kelley. “We know from long experience that these survey results, and stories like those of our 50 honorees, are powerful tools for recasting the American narrative to be more accurate. We have to get away from the ‘we’re divided, end of story’ view to a picture of America that acknowledges that in the places we live, we still have a lot of faith in each other.”
The poll also found that despite people feeling a lack of national unity, Americans still share an overarching humanity with an overwhelming majority (94%) agreeing we need to treat each other with respect and 70% agreeing that the pandemic has reminded us that we are fundamentally the same.
“We can see from the results of our most recent survey that it is in local communities that people are coming together – serving on the frontlines, helping those in need, supporting local small businesses and leading us through this crisis,” said Dan Vallone, US Director for More in Common. “The work Reader’s Digest is doing to collect and preserve these stories of kindness and humanity has even greater importance at this time to serve as a reminder that we are all in this together.”
To find this year’s 50 honorees, Reader’s Digest put out a call for stories of places where readers saw people in their towns, stores, hospitals, social feeds, food pantries, and Zoom gatherings—anyplace that matters to them—would not let crisis defeat them. From these submissions, the 50 most extraordinary stories were selected, one from every state, to be honored as the 50 Nicest Places in America 2020: United In Kindness. The stories are available online at RD.com/Nicest, where readers can show their support for the kind of positive actions that we all want to see more of in our communities by virtually “clapping,” echoing the cheers that ring around the world at 7pm for healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with an advisory council, including internationally best-selling author and journalist Mitch Albom, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot and Trusted Media Brands CEO Bonnie Kintzer, readers will help decide which honorees will be highlighted in the November issue of the magazine, including one grand honoree. These stories are representative of the unity and kindness we are seeing in our local communities every day.
Reader’s Digest’s 50 Nicest Places in America 2020: United in Kindness are:
- Alabama: Owens Cross Roads – Two young dancers use their talents to fundraise and spread joy.
- Alaska: Anchorage – City unites to help the homeless stay safe during pandemic.
- Arizona: E Gershon Ln in Tucson – Miracle of carpentry ensures students keep learning.
- Arkansas: Sardis – Homegrown movement feeds the hungry while maintaining dignity.
- California: Rio Vista – Call for racial solidarity on Nextdoor gives an elderly black man his life back.
- Colorado: Struggle of Love in Denver – Community supports homeless nonprofit to feed surge of city’s hungry.
- Connecticut: Bloomfield – Town fights for justice after local hate crime hits home.
- Delaware: Edgemoor Terrace Neighborhood in Wilmington – Musical duo brings joy to the world, then to neighbors.
- Florida: Pine Hills – White woman worried about being accepted in new town embraced by community.
- Georgia: The Dream Center in Augusta – Donations to local charity surge as pandemic grows need.
- Hawaii: Kamiloiki Valley on Oahu – Student debt drives campaign to do good.
- Idaho: Meridian – Neighborliness key to fast-growing city’s success.
- Illinois: Collinsville – Community rallies around local restaurant offering kids free lunch.
- Indiana: The Doorsteps of Central Indiana – Photographer captures moving moments of families in quarantine.
- Iowa: Iowa City – Roller derby mobilizes in crazy costumes to spark joy amid lockdown.
- Kansas: Olathe – Healing trauma is top priority in this town.
- Kentucky: Signature Health Care Nursing Facility in Elizabethtown – Paralyzed man with camera galvanizes community and changes hearts with art.
- Louisiana: Red Handed Tattoo in Shreveport – Tattoo shop becomes medical supply hub.
- Maine: The Cedars in Portland – Dementia patients given attention, brought to tears, even at social distance.
- Maryland: Gaithersburg – Child activists (4, 7) lead recovery efforts.
- Massachusetts: Springfield – Jewish “Ham Lady” teams with Priest to make Easter happen.
- Michigan: Buchanan – Protest beneath Memorial Day banners makes town proud to protect First Amendment.
- Minnesota: Victoria’s Ristorante and Wine Bar in Rochester – Italian restaurant feeds hungry kids with excess pasta, for free.
- Mississippi: Florence Gardens in Gulfport – Pandemic turns neighbors into friends.
- Missouri: Thousand Oaks Subdivision in Parkville – Fireworks honor the memory of lost neighbor.
- Montana: Ronan – Teachers take to YouTube to reach scared students during lockdown.
- Nebraska: At the End of a Cul-de-Sac in Lincoln – Inspired by Italy, cul-de-sac sparks neighborhood gatherings across city.
- Nevada: Sparks – Neighborhood “burglary” turns to the good.
- New Hampshire: Temple – Huge birthday parade in tiny, rural area.
- New Jersey: Jefferson Washington Township Hospital in Turnersville – Stimulus check donated to healthcare workers inspires others to do same.
- New Mexico: Bueno Para Todos Farm in Villanueva – Remote farm gives stranded foreign students home.
- New York: Riverdale Neighborhood in The Bronx – Pizza Brigade and friendly fridge help ravaged community heal.
- North Carolina: Dirtbag Ales Brewery in Hope Mills – Free beer for quarantined troops.
- North Dakota: Minot – Wooden hearts mysteriously appear all over town.
- Ohio: Clintonville Neighborhood in Columbus – Neighborhood love overcomes lockdown.
- Oklahoma: Colefax Hill Neighborhood in Tulsa – Martial arts family works for neighbors to relieve pandemic pain.
- Oregon: Hillsboro – Essential worker gets heartwarming recognition from first responder.
- Pennsylvania: Yardley – Soup brigade mobilizes to fight growing hunger need.
- Rhode Island: Belmont Market in Wakefield – Grocery store scales to help elderly stay safe.
- South Carolina: Pawleys Island – White sheriff, black teen find common ground on racial justice.
- South Dakota: Iroquois School District – Teachers help students get rural broadband when school goes digital.
- Tennessee – Nashville – Teens lead the way in the fight for racial justice.
- Texas: Highland Village – “Not all angels have halos. Some wear cowboy hats.”
- Utah: Backyards in Saratoga Springs – Backyard fitness class goes viral, sparks nationwide trend.
- Vermont: Cyberspace – College student turns bad timing into help for struggling, rural elderly.
- Virginia: Virtual Tip Jar – Digital tip jar inspires millions to give.
- Washington: Bellden Cafe in Bellevue – Cafe doubles down amid lockdown to feed area needy.
- West Virginia: Huntington – Town combats PR problem by investing in kindness.
- Wisconsin: Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus – Free fresh milk for those who need; cows for adoption for those who can afford to help.
- Wyoming: Casper – City rallies around those who need it most.
Launched in 2017, the search for Nicest Places has found nearly three thousand stories of a kinder country submitted by everyday Americans. The inaugural search spotlighted the uplifting story of Gallatin, Tennessee, a growing city able to heal painful racial divides when faced with tragedy. In 2018, Nicest Places told the story of Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee whose falafel restaurant has become an engine of kindness and charity in Knoxville. Last year, Columbiana, Ohio was voted the Nicest Place in America, a place where nobody is left behind and residents described their community ethos as “giving back without wanting anything in return is a way of life.”
Find inspiration and virtually clap for the 50 honorees of Reader’s Digest Nicest Places in America 2020: United in Kindness here.
Full results from More in Common’s most recent poll in partnership with Reader’s Digest are available here. The survey was conducted in partnership with YouGov, among a sample of 2,070 US adults, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. Fieldwork took place from June 19 to 22, 2020.
About Reader’s Digest
Reader’s Digest, a Trusted Media Brands, Inc. brand, simplifies and enriches consumers’ lives by discovering and expertly selecting the most interesting ideas, stories, experiences and products in health, home, family, food, finance and humor. Reader’s Digest is available online at RD.com; in print; via digital download on iPad, mobile apps and tablets; and can be accessed via its social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.