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Nebraska Bakery a Finalist for Kindest Place in U.S.

Residents in McCook responded to the Sehnert Bakery's challenge to raise money for struggling families by raising $600,000. (Pixabay)
Residents in McCook responded to the Sehnert Bakery's challenge to raise money for struggling families by raising $600,000. (Pixabay)
July 18, 2019

MCCOOK, Neb. – Sehnert's Bakery in the town of McCook is one of 50 finalists in a national crowdsourced search for the Nicest Place in America.

Bruce Kelley, editor in chief of Reader's Digest, which is behind the effort, says in an era of cultural and political divides, the annual list puts a spotlight on places where people are kind and treat each other with respect.

The family-owned bakery stood out from more than 1,000 submissions because of its history of generating a culture of giving.

"It's an amazing place in terms of niceness because every bit of charity that happens in McCook comes right through this place," Kelley states.

When the bakery challenged the town of 8,000 to raise $200,000 for scholarships and struggling families, the Sehnert family promised to match contributions dollar for dollar. The town raised $600,000.

Polls to vote for the Nicest Place in America are open to the public online at Votes must be cast by Sunday.

Kelley says towns making this year's list are not all wealthy enclaves. Stories include an addiction treatment center in Kansas, a food bank in Iowa and a New Mexico town that greeted 1,600 asylum seekers it didn't ask for with open arms.

Kelley says the project is not just about inspiring readers, it's about inspiring people to help change their community for the better.

"Whatever people say about this country, that we're fighting a lot, the fact of the matter is, locally, people are really getting it together across all sorts of divides that you'd think would divide them but don't in the end," he states.

One of the project's first stories involves a Rhode Island children's hospital known for treating very sick children.

At closing time, a staffer told a child who didn't want to be alone at night that he'd flash the light on his bike to show he'd be back the next day when the child underwent treatment.

The child responded by turning his room lights on and off. Now, every night around 8 o'clock, local businesses and residents flash their "Good Night Lights," and the children do the same, a ritual that has since spread to hospitals across the country.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE