It’s hard to believe that if you flip back to a few weeks ago, headlines reveal that it was business as usual in the Susquehanna River Valley. The election year and political candidates dominated the news and the American people were spending their days going to work or school and trying to decide what to make for dinner. The worldwide concern over the coronavirus was buried deeper into our papers and newscasts, and the public watched developments with a concerned yet distant eye.

Fast forward to today’s headlines: Young people attending online classes, individuals out of work or working on the frontlines where they are at constant risk of exposure and uncertainty about tomorrow…let alone the days and weeks after tomorrow. Yet through all of these bleak messages, it is important to keep in mind that we have the power to write our own headlines.

The United States is a country that is often defined by its divisions. Freedom of speech and passion of belief are cornerstones of this society. However, too often those founding principles are used to tear each other down rather than helping to raise each other up. Election years bring these divisions to the forefront – focusing completely on our differences and failing to see our similarities.

Suddenly in light of the current crisis, these divisions don’t seem quite so important, and more and more often we are seeing people recognize their similarities. Working with businesses and organizations in this beautiful region, the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau is in the position to see so many points of light within this current darkness.

New stories and headlines reach us every day. Firefighters who volunteer to deliver meals to the elderly and homebound, school children and church groups creating cards for elderly in locked-down nursing homes and restaurant owners handing out toiletry and cleaning supplies with takeout orders encouraging their patrons to “pay it forward” and give these supplies to their neighbors who are most in need. One local restaurant (Mauer’s Dairy in Shamokin) is providing free meals to area students who lost their access to food when their classes ended. People are spending their free moments sewing masks for hospitals and picking up trash on their daily walks. Restaurants struggling to keep their businesses alive are supporting neighboring restaurants by ordering takeout for their employees, and in turn the neighboring restaurants are reciprocating.

One area restaurant (Masser’s Restaurant & Catering in Paxinos) recently hosted a takeout pig roast with proceeds benefitting their out-of-work employees. A local university (Susquehanna University) recently donated masks, gloves and other medical supplies to area hospitals and organizations in need. The university medical center had stocked up on these items in anticipation of the upcoming flu season, but no longer needed these supplies with the cessation of classes.

Local attractions and museums had to shut their doors to visitors, but they are finding ways to reach out to families looking for fun and informative content. Organizations (like World of Little League in South Williamsport, Bloomsburg Children’s Museum, Lewisburg Children’s Museum and Corning Museum of Glass) are offering free virtual tours and activities on social media. Attractions (like Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax, T&D’s Cats of the World in Penns Creek, Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood and Country Vale Alpacas in New Columbia) are posting coloring pages, fun videos and first looks at new animal friends on Facebook. Area libraries (, Milton Public Library and Union County Libraries,) are giving individuals of all ages free access to their on-line e- and audio-books. These businesses are making their own headlines and reminding us of the wonderful region in which we live, work and play!

We can all help write the story and make sure that it has a happy ending. Be a bright spot on social media. Let people know what you are doing to support your local small businesses or non-profits and encourage others to do the same. Shop your local businesses on-line, purchase gift cards to help businesses through this difficult time and post your favorite things to do in the Susquehanna River Valley. Show your support for the people, businesses and organizations in your hometowns – these groups represent your families, friends and neighbors. Right now, in the midst of very real concerns and worries about our personal health and livelihood, we can find safe ways to comfort and support each other.

Together we will get through this difficult time. Concerns will pass and businesses will open. In the wake of this crisis, individuals will be wary of crowded cities and long-distance travel. They will be seeking open spaces filled with beauty, outdoor recreation and quaint downtowns – all of the elements that make the Susquehanna River Valley great. By supporting local businesses now, we are helping to ensure that they reach this ending.

We can rewrite the headlines for a brighter tomorrow!

Andrew Miller is executive director at the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg.

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