GUEST: It's a wonderful life in Walla Walla Valley

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Walla Walla has a lot to be thankful for. I was musing last night, which is always trouble, but I started counting how fortunate we are to live in Walla Walla and the Valley.

So let me start my list which is in no way all-inclusive.

We have citizens who are willing to step up and run for office and accept responsibility rather than sitting back and firing sometimes ill-informed arrows. There are many ways to make a difference without running for office, but those that do should earn our thanks.

We have dedicated police and sheriff officers, firemen and women, EMT and 911 folks who look after us 24-7. How about saying thanks to them as they drive by and don't take them for granted.

We have two wonderful hospitals and a clinic or two where we can get world-class treatment for most anything that ails us real or imagined.

We have so many agencies and groups working with a variety of groups to make our Valley better for all. We have the YMCA, YWCA, Children's Home Society, Friends, Early Learning Coalition, Catholic Charities, Mothers and Tots programs, Helpline, Christian Aid Center, the Humane Society, shelters for men, women, families and homeless, family home visitation programs, County Health programs, Migrant Work Camp housing and schooling, and so many more. I forgot some but this is just a start.

We have a dedicated religious community of many faiths who are amazing.

We have world-class education institutions in Whitman, Walla Walla University and the Community College that easily provide more than $100 million into our economy every year. Our school district alone has a budget of over $60 million. Think about that the next time you are asked to support a levy or bond.

We have DeSales, Walla Walla Academy, Lincoln and Running Start, which are fabulous options for families and kids.

Think of the riches these institutions bring to us: arts, theater, symphonies, athletics, lectures and much more. Wow!!!

I could go on and on but some of you already think I already have. Get involved, go to the schools for open houses, our kids go to the best colleges in the U.S. and we prepare many more for vocational jobs that now require extensive technology training. Our schools are succeeding.

Our teachers deserve a salute as well. They work longer hours than the union requires, they are innovative and they are making a big difference.

We have a robust economy with agriculture and viticulture and manufacturing. We have local banks and big banks that add to our well being.

We have amazing employers both international and national who give back so much to the economy.

We have talented folks who work at the penitentiary - buy one of these folks a cup of coffee if you think you have had a tough day.

If the Grinch looked down on our Valley from a perch up in the Blues after lifting all our toys, I think he would see a bright light shining and some beautiful music floating up saying that we do care about each other and we live in a pretty special spot.

Jim McCarthy, a former member of the Walla Walla School Board, currently serves as a board member of the Early Learning Coalition and the Foundation for Early Learning.

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