It’s been a year since we last published our Profile section, in which we look back at the progress being made in our community and the heroes who touch the lives of the people who live here. And what a year it’s been.

At this time last year, we were just learning new phrases like “social distancing” and “community spread” and “flattening the curve.” We knew more about what we didn’t know than what we did know about this new virus. Most of all, we didn’t know how it would affect our lives, our families, our communities and our economy. Now we know.

The positive news is that Cullman County’s economy and businesses have done pretty good. There are exceptions to this, of course, but overall the local economy has fared well.

When it comes to individuals, the news is not as good. Food banks and food pantries report an increase in demand as people find themselves - some for the first time - without enough to feed their families.

People lost loved ones and could not gather together with others sharing in their loss.

Parents had to navigate work, parenting and changed school schedules and rules.

Grandparents in nursing homes were unable to hug their loved ones or, sometimes, even visit with them in person.

It has been a tough year. But the bright lights of hope have been the heroes within our community - sung and unsung:

The medical personnel, wading into the unknown waters of a disease we’re still learning about to provide care and comfort;

The nursing home and assisted living staff, who not only strove to protect the most vulnerable population, but also to boost morale as much as possible;

The teachers, crafting lesson plans to reach students through the internet and creating and maintaining safe classrooms for in-person learning;

Every person who crafted face masks for friends, neighbors and complete strangers;

Funeral home directors who worked with grieving families to find ways to honor and remember the deceased when funerals were not allowed or were limited;

Business owners who found ways to keep operating and retain employees;

The clergy who ministered to their flocks in a time of stress, sadness, and sometimes separation, and bolstered the faith of their church families;

Every person who has looked around and asked themselves, “how can I help my neighbor?” and then found a way to do so.

You are all heroes.

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