There are always people who bring a smile to those around them.

There are always people who make the world a little bit brighter. And we need to celebrate and thank those people.

It’s not easy to always be positive and smiling. It’s not easy to uplift others, especially when you’re not feeling uplifted yourself. But there are some people around us who manage to do it because they know how much it affects their families, their coworkers and complete strangers.

Here are just a few people I think do that — they encourage and uplift. And that’s a special gift.

Kathy Mathis — Kathy has a smile on her face every single time I see her and it’s infectious. It makes you want to smile along with her. She is gentle, kind and so encouraging and supportive of those around her. Kathy makes you feel like she truly cares about you. And it’s genuine. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and is a gift to our community.

Bill Davies — A lot has been said and written about Bill Davies, I know. But it will never be enough. He is an incredibly warm and loving man. I met Bill for the very first time many years ago and have been thankful for his friendship ever since. We have a Kentucky connection and that just makes him even more of an angel in my book. If you are fortunate to know Bill, you’ll know that we in Rome are blessed to have someone in our midst who makes people want to do better.

Lee Hight — Board chair for the housing authority and longtime volunteer with Good Neighborhood Ministries. I don’t know Lee personally, but when I asked others about her, the response was clear. Lee is exceptionally positive, friendly and extremely supportive of others. She certainly has made an impact on so many people with her warm and caring personality.

Jan Fergerson — Jan is one of the owners of Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers on Broad Street. She is active in various areas of the community, particularly in promoting downtown Rome and she’s a great ambassador for our downtown area. Jan has a way of making you feel welcome and at ease with a simple smile or just a few words. She exudes warmth and gentleness. Every time I’ve seen Jan around town she has words of encouragement or kind things to say about others.

Andi Beyer — In my head she’s the bee lady because of all the work she does with the local group the BeeShees, which promotes education and preservation of honeybees. But Andi is also very active in other areas of the community. She’s creative and artistic and is one of those people who is a doer. If there’s something that needs to be done, she’ll jump in there and help out. And we need more people like that. She is definitely a bright light in our community.

Bart Kinne — I only know Bart Kinne as the owner of the bowling alley and I believe part owner of Jefferson’s on Broad. And one time he paid for my meal at an out-of-town restaurant even though we had never met before. But whenever his name comes up in conversation, people only have great things to say about him. From what I understand, Bart is an honest-to-goodness wonderful human being who treats people with kindness and respect and who always gives to others.

Christa Jackson — I’ve mentioned Christa in previous columns but I can’t say enough about what a gift she is to our community. She is director of admissions at St. Mary’s School and is just a delightful person. She brings a joy and warmth with her when she enters a room and makes everyone around her feel special. She is truly an exceptional individual.

David Tomlin — David is senior vice president of River City Bank and one of the most personable and friendly guys you’ll meet. David’s smile puts you at ease and even if you don’t know him, you feel like you’re seeing a longtime friend. That’s a very special quality to have.

The reason I decided to write this column is because I recently learned of the passing of a lady I met many many years ago when I had just moved to Rome. I was interviewing Vesta Salmon about her work (at the time) of caring for the Oak Hill house (Martha Berry’s home). We talked for an entire afternoon about her life and her experiences. She was lovely. We began corresponding with handwritten notes from time to time. A few years later I met her again when she was a caretaker for one of the cottages on the Berry campus. Both times she baked me the most delicious pound cake and was so loving and sweet to me. I was heartbroken to learn that Miss Salmon passed away last month. She was an angel in this community and I should have told her that more often. I’m thankful to have known her.

I encourage you to acknowledge the people who make a difference — either with their words or with their actions or even with just a smile — people who create a better world around them. I’ve named a few I think should be celebrated but you probably know many others in and around our community. Let them know you appreciate them.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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