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Telling stories in ‘Profile 2016’

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, and the Weather Channel app shows mild — dare we say spring-like — temperatures for the next two weeks. There’s one more sign that the end of winter is near, although it isn’t as visible outside this newspaper office. All the staff members in the editorial department are hard at work on a special project we will publish in April called “Southeast Texas Profile 2016.”

Springtime projects are a tradition at The Port Arthur News. Last year we published “Horizons,” special sections in each Sunday paper during April highlighting elements of the business and industrial community in Mid- and South Jefferson County. The year before was “Southeast Texas Synergy” which showcased the communities and cultures of this area. Both of those sections were extremely well received by the readers who kept the sections around for weeks to read and share. The sections were also well received by advertisers who used the once-a-year special editions as a way to let people in this area know about the progress their business made in the past year and to show their staffs how much they are appreciated.

As I mentioned earlier, staffers are already at work on this year’s “Profile” edition. We kicked it off back in December with a staff party where this year’s theme and stories were unveiled. The party had a superhero theme and visitors to the new Port Arthur News building at 2349 Memorial can still take photos standing behind the superhero cutout in the lobby. The party was fun, but it also had a purpose. This was our first year as a member of the Boone Newspaper family, and the annual “Profile” editions are very important to Jim Boone, the patriarch and founder of the chain. We watched a short video Mr. Boone produced in which he explained his philosophy of the annual special edition, saying this was a time to showcase the positive elements of our community. We wanted our team to understand that this year we were going to pull out all the stops and push “Profile 2016” to another level.

To get to that next level we needed a theme that incorporated the very best of our community. It didn’t take much brainstorming to realize that our best asset was our people. We’ve all heard it many times when visitors come to this area, that the people here are so friendly and so helpful. So we decided to feature our people and tell their stories. With that we chose the theme “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.” That really is the backbone of this area. It’s not the high and mighty or the rich and famous that make this a great place to live and raise a family, it is the ordinary people who volunteer their time or who through their work impact others in a positive way. And they really do accomplish extraordinary things.

We will have dozens of those stories to tell each Sunday in April in our Profile edition. But even with all our staffers working for months to research and tell the best stories they can find, we would only scratch the surface of residents from all our cities, all our cultures who do extraordinary things. So to broaden our ability to recognize those who are making a positive impact, we are inviting you, our friends and readers, to help tell even more stories by nominating people to be included in a special collection we will call “Extraordinary Neighbors.”

In “Extraordinary Neighbors” we want to feature people who work behind the scenes to help out in their community. They may make lunch for a shut-in neighbor or take someone who can’t drive or doesn’t have a car to their doctor’s appointments. Maybe they help neighborhood children with their homework or give their time to coach youth league sports teams. You all know someone who deserves a little recognition, even though they often don’t seek it out. This is an opportunity to give a pat on the back and let them know someone thinks they are an “Extraordinary Neighbor.” We want to make it as simple as possible to nominate an “Extraordinary Neighbor,” but we need you to provide us a couple of sentences about what makes your nominee an Extraordinary Neighbor and we need contact information so we can arrange for a nice photograph. We will also include your name as the person who nominated them.

If you’re ready to send in your nomination now, send it to “Extraordinary Neighbors,” The Port Arthur News, 2349 Memorial Blvd., Port Arthur, Texas 77642. Please include your phone number in case we need additional information. We will begin running a form in the paper next week you can cut out to send in your nominations. The deadline to receive entries will be March 18 so we will have time to take the photos and prepare the write-ups. If you have any questions about how to nominate someone, give me a call and we’ll come up with answers. Let the return of the robins and the sprouting of clover be a reminder that it’s time to nominate an “Extraordinary Neighbor” for April’s “Profile 2016: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.”

Roger Cowles is editor of The Port Arthur News. Contact him at roger.cowles@panews.com or call 721-2431.

About Roger Cowles

Roger Cowles is the editor of The Port Arthur News. Born in Port Arthur, he grew up in Groves. He is a graduate of Port Neches-Groves High School and Lamar University, where he was editor of the University Press. Cowles is married to Celines Del Valle, is a member and past president of The Rotary Club of Port Arthur and serves on a number of boards for local agencies, including the United Way of Mid and South Jefferson County and the Salvation Army.

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