Reader’s Digest names Columbiana ‘Nicest Place in America’

Local News

It started with a letter from a local grandma who was touched by a special needs program in the community

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – Reader’s Digest has just announced the winner of its Nicest Place in America designation — Columbiana, Ohio. And it all started with a grandmother dropping off her grandson at theater practice.

Just south of the Mahoning County line lies the Nicest Place in America, according to the magazine that’s been in publication since 1922.

“The city is growing, the people are wonderful, all the businesses collaborate,” Mayor Bryan Blakeman said. “There is just a pretty unique feel down here.”

He knows what the rest of America is just now finding out about his city.

It started in the heart of Columbiana at Main Street Theater.

“We do two shows a year for just actors with special needs,” said Erich Offenburg, artistic director for Crown Theater Productions. “One of the grandmothers — Mary Lou Wilson — of one of our participants wanted to write an article, so she did, about our program and submitted it to Reader’s Digest.”

The magazine considered the article and used interviews, investigations and social media to come to their decision.

Donald Arthurs bought the theater in 2007 with his wife. He’s proud of where their investment vision is today.

“When you see the impact that it has made in the people that are part of it, the community, and my wife and I can just sit back and…that’s why we did it,” Arthurs said. “It’s that family bond that has been created with all the people throughout the years.”

Reader’s Digest said it took 1,100 nominations, 49 finalists, tens of thousands of votes and eight judges before it decided on Columbiana.

The magazine said the Nicest Place in America is a community “committed to kindness, trust and health.”

You can read more about what Reader’s Digest thought of Columbiana on the magazine’s website.

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