BUCHANAN, MI – Out of every place in the country, a small city in Michigan has just been named the “Nicest Place in America” in 2020. Reader’s Digest will feature Buchanan in its November issue of the magazine which hits newsstands on October 20th.
Buchanan, population around 4,500, is located in Berrien County in Southwest Michigan, not far from the Indiana border near South Bend. The publication selected the rural city after gathering stories from more than a thousand communities in every state where people have come together to make each other’s lives better.
“It was nominated by a man named James Van Dyke. He told a moving story,” said best-selling author, journalist and Michigan native Mitch Albom who made the announcement on the Today Show. Album also was part of the “Nicest Places” Advisory Council.”
Van Dyke’s story, which helped win Buchanan the designation, told how the town came together to safely honor it’s veterans as an alternative to its 150th annual Memorial Day parade.
“In small towns, Memorial Day and parades are a big deal to honor the vets. Because of Covid, they couldn’t hold the parade,” Albom said. “Instead of just giving into the disease, they got photos of all of the active military and veterans in the town, turned them into huge banners and hung them from all the lampposts. 103 banners.”
Albom says the people of Buchanan also united when the news of George Floyd’s killing broke by marching together, including with police officers, under the American flag and banners of local veterans.
“Buchanan is a midwestern town that loves its country, loves its history, loves its military and also understands racial injustice and the need for racial justice,” Albom added. “They [the people of Buchanan] personify the ability to love your country and also love all different members of the country.”
This year’s nationwide Reader’s Digest search received a record 1,177 stories of solidarity. From these submissions, Reader’s Digest editors and an advisory council, including Albom, selected the 50 honorees of Nicest Places in America, one for each state, with Buchanan being named the nicest of them all.
“This year, we received an avalanche of heartwarming stories, many of them from people uniting in their local communities to overcome the pandemic and to say ‘no more’ to racial injustice,” said Reader’s Digest Editor-in-Chief Bruce Kelley. “In Buchanan, the people did both, all under the banner of the First Amendment, the American flag and patriotism. It gives me hope for our country.”
“Nicest” places in each state and their stories:
● 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.
Reader’s Digest launched its “Nicest Places” in 2017. 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.”
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