Helena faring well in Reader’s Digest sweepstakes

An example of the Reader’s Digest sweepstakes web page. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Helena residents feel they have a lot to cheer about. And they have been very diligent and caught up in voting in the Reader’s Digest “We Hear You America” sweepstakes.

In the municipal portion of the sweepstakes, where you can go online and ‘cheer’ daily for your home city, there is a $40,000 first prize, $25,000 second and $10,000 third prize.

Amanda Traywick, Helena city clerk, learned of this opportunity in a letter received by Mayor Penhale, and felt it was worth “getting the word out.”

It was posted on the city website and brought to the attention of blogger Hal Woodman, aka Hewy of No Sleep in Helena. The blog, with its sizeable following, promoted this opportunity with a link that resulted in Helena running as high as 12th place in the contest that ends on February 7.

As of late January, Helena was still in 35th place, and hoping for a visit from the Reader’s Digest tour bus that is traveling through the top 50 cities.

Readers are encouraged to write about what is great about their city and what they think the prize money should be used for. After reading the comments on the Helena page, one hears the chant of “high school, high school,” ringing in ones ears.

Obviously, $40,000 would not a high school build. Other practical suggestions have been such as Mike Bratton’s, “Our small, quaint Old Town area is struggling. Funding and promotional support would help Helena make the Old Town area competitive.”

Alan Eads suggested the funds be used to increase greenway areas and Robert Faulk would like to see the waterfall area enhanced.

“It is sad that our Sport Complex has a volleyball court but cannot afford volleyball nets, let alone cleaning supplies,” posted Sonya Unnoppet.

After noting some 50-plus comments referencing a high school, I phoned Mayor Sonny Penhale to inquire of progress in that direction.

“The mayor works on this every day,” said his assistant Joy Childers. “The first and most important aspect of making a Helena high school a reality is voting in favor of the tax renewal coming up for vote on February 8.”

“Many people don’t understand that this vote is a renewal, not an increase.”

The Shelby County Board of Education counts on these funds for 28 percent of their budget. Early renewal establishes a long-term, steady stream of revenue to secure financing for capital improvement projects as well as art, music, technology, physical education and gifted education.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e-mail at labro16@yahoo.com.