CONNECTICUT — What does it mean to live in a "nice" town? A new report from Readers's Digest challenges the traditional criteria of good school system, low crime rate, affordability and ease of commuting — those benchmarks across which Connecticut towns always seem to score so well.
Instead, for its annual list of the Nicest Places in America, the venerable periodical focused upon how communities rose to the challenges of 2020, "even as they remain deeply divided about the response on a national level." The editors selected Bloomfield as Connecticut's winner.
The sleepy Hartford suburb of 21,000 was nominated by resident Sophia Shepard, who said her neighbors rallied to her aid when her freezer broke down.
"I will forever be indebted to our neighbor for the kindness they showed us in our time of need without even charging us a dime," Shepard told Reader's Digest. Hers was one of a record 1,177 stories of solidarity and hope submitted in 2020. The magazine selected one town from each state for its list of America's Nicest Places.
For the research, RD partnered with More in Common, an organization with "the goal of helping build a more united, resilient and inclusive America." When they investigated Bloomfield after Shepard's nomination, they found a community united in their desire for justice after George Floyd's death, and in protest against a local racially-motivated hate crime.
The report cites Bloomfield's mixed population — at 57 percent Black, it is the state's most diverse municipality — as a factor in its honor.
"As in other places, however, the racial groups are far more separated than they could be; the public schools in town are 95 percent Black," the report states.
Top of the Heap of Hope, according to RD, is Buchanan, Michigan. When the coronavirus claimed the "classic Midwest town's" Memorial Day Parade as a victim, only to have a Black Lives Matter march take its place on the holiday, things could've gotten ugly. Instead, white, Black, veterans and millennials all joined together in solidarity for God, country, and social justice down Main Street in the magazine's 2020 Nicest Place in America.
If you are basking in the glow that the good people of Buchanan and Bloomfield radiate, you may want to just savor that image and stop reading now. The researchers did not have any warm fuzzies about the near future of the country. Only 1 in 5 Americans feel our country will emerge from 2020 more united, according to the report.
"The message that emerges from the study is that we can't wait for someone else to resolve our divisions," the editors wrote. "The work of re-building a more united America starts at home—in local streets, neighborhoods, and communities."