As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, we look forward to celebrating the holidays. Hopefully, this year our holidays will be more like those we have celebrated in years past.
So, with Thanksgiving approaching, it seems only right to take a moment to count just a few of our blessings from the past year. Though this year has not been without its heartache and trials, we can give thanks for our healthcare system, our economic growth, and the unity of our community.
In January 2021, our hospital was filled to capacity and our healthcare workers were struggling to keep up with demand. Vaccines were in short supply. But, theCity of Laurens partnered with Prisma to temporarily convert The Ridge, our recreation center, into a mass vaccination center, and those who wished to were able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 locally. Thousands of people were vaccinated, and ultimately, lives were saved.
As life began to return to a sense of normalcy in the spring, the economic growth which persisted through the pandemic steadily accelerated. In April, our downtown came alive with the advent of a new tradition, ‘Friday Night Live.’ This weekly celebration of community life kept Laurens residents in town each and every Friday night. Laurens residents supported Laurens businesses and restaurants, and our city came alive! Our efforts won the admiration of cities across South Carolina and drew visitors wanting to know the secret behind our city’s new vibrancy. Building on all that positive momentum, new businesses have opened and more are on the way! Along with new businesses have come plans for new houses, and this year City Council approved the first subdivision plan since the early 1980s.
Much of our growth can be traced to the blessings we have seen in the stability and efficiency of our city government. We were able to provide pay increases for city employees, and make improvements to city facilities and equipment, all without raising taxes! Our finances are strong, and the City is blessed to be in a healthy financial condition. Given the challenges all cities faced during the pandemic, this is rare, and Laurens is truly fortunate.
Our new nightlife and growth have been fun, but the City of Laurens became an important player in bringing our community together in other ways. We have been blessed with partnerships which will continue to transform our community for years to come. The most historic of these partnerships is the one announced just last month: the purchase of the Capitol Theater by Presbyterian College, expanding their presence into Laurens for the first time in 141 years, and our partnership with PC which will bring a new home for performing arts in the city. This will end a period of nearly 100 years that the city has gone without a public stage for arts and entertainment.
But other partnerships have been transformational, too. This summer, all the county’s municipalities came together with the County to pass nearly identical, tougher litter ordinances and to start a Palmetto Pride program. Partnerships with the American Legion have brought gifts to families in need and recognition to our veterans. Partnerships with Main Street Laurens brought back Squealin’ on the Square for its 20th year, and a variety of improvements made it better than ever!
No one person, or business, or partnership has made all the difference. The items listed here are just a small fraction of our gifts, and we must give thanks, recognizing the source of our blessings. May God continue to bless the City of Laurens and every one of you. Happy Thanksgiving!