As I sit down to write this month’s op-ed, I can’t help but reflect back on the year we’ve had. It’s safe to say that 2020 was an unexpected whirlwind of events that kept us all on our toes. Now a vaccine is on the horizon and we may, at some point in the first half of 2021, slowly be returning to the normal that once was. Yet, when I reflect back, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for this place I call home. Through thick and thin, we have stuck together.
This was truly a year to be #StoryCountyStrong. The Ames Chamber of Commerce team initiated this social media campaign back at the height of restrictions in March to help keep the community rallied together. What we didn’t expect, was how easy it was to get the word out about the campaign. Almost immediately, we saw businesses posting signs in their windows with #StoryCountyStrong, or children creating #StoryCountyStrong chalk designs. I found it difficult to travel anywhere throughout town without seeing the hashtag prominently displayed.
As the year progressed, we worked together to safely keep businesses open with hospitality promises delivered to every restaurant and bar in Story County and reopening guides delivered to businesses getting ready to open their doors again, or others donated handmade face coverings to ensure employees could safely return to work. When the Iowa State University students were returning to Ames, we welcomed them back with open arms and helped them navigate the new regulations in the community. They had been gone for six months, experiencing the pandemic elsewhere, and we helped them learn how to live in their new hometown while they were at school.
When the derecho hit, we removed debris from our neighbor’s yards, and opened our homes to strangers in need of a warm meal and a phone recharge. Our community worked together, without being asked, to ensure others were safe and without need.
Although there were points in time when the changes felt never ending and at times it was easy to get frustrated with the state of things, I am proud to say our community hung in there and helped one another as we collectively endured. From the start of the pandemic, to derecho clean up and sharing electricity, we stuck through it all, together. I wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else then right here in Story County. Thank you for always staying #StoryCountyStrong and all the best for a terrific 2021.