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opinion Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Thumbs Up: The Alexandria Area Community Foundation continues to make a significant, positive impact in the community. On Wednesday, it revealed the recipients of two "Difference Maker" grants it has awarded. The Alexandria Area Arts Association is getting $60,000 to support the first phase of a three-part building project and the local United Way will receive $20,000 to develop a new program to help the homeless here in Douglas County. Look for more details in an Echo Press story next week. The foundation has to make tough choices every year in deciding where to direct the grants because there is so much local demand for funds. Both of this year's recipients would have been hard-pressed to find the funding elsewhere so having the foundation step forward and address two key issues -- local arts and housing for the less fortunate -- shows, once again, that the foundation is fulfilling its mission of "engaging people and building community."

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SMOKING DEBATE FOLLOW-UP

Thumbs Up/Down: Several readers responded to a "thumbs" item in the last edition whether a healthcare professional should be turned down for a job because he smokes. Most of the respondents, but not all, said the worker should kick the habit if he wants the job. One reader, Judith Peterson, said that if the person is a true health care professional, he wouldn't be a smoker. "His decision to smoke is faulty based on the science," she said. "I question his decisions for others in whatever health care capacity he would be functioning. If it is direct patient care, I, as a consumer, do not want someone smelling of smoke on his clothes and breath after a 'break.' If it is in administration of some kind, his decisions about issues involving smoking could be sketchy. Since it was not the employer that was discriminatory, he has no recourse but I, as a consumer, would have second thoughts about hiring him also. My message to him is: You are able to quit smoking. It is kinder and more considerate to yourself, your loved ones and the other people around you to do so." Another reader said it comes down to choice. "It's like alcohol," she said. "You can't drink alcohol on the job either," she said. "Some employers allow smoking and some don't. He should abide by what the employer wants or find another job."

INCONSIDERATE TRAIL USERS

Thumbs Down: Those who bike on the Central Lakes Trail should be thinking of others, not just themselves, when they go whizzing by walkers. "Common courtesy is when bikers are coming up behind walkers to say: 'On your left.' Many do not," said a reader. "In our case, we have a large dog that, when startled, will leap at them." She said that in her view, the most inconsiderate are the groups of bicyclers. "We are all to share the trail," she said. "It is not more so the bikers' trail than it is the walkers/skateboarders or anyone else's. But we have been run off the trail by the groups of bikers as they will not move over or go single file. They expect the walkers to move. Common courtesy by all who share the trail would be really nice."

WEBSITE READERS

Thumbs Up: We'd like to thank all of our website readers for their patience as we switch over to a new and improved design at www.echopress.com. After months of planning and preparation, the transition started to take place on Thursday. There are still many issues to work through but once they are resolved, the site will be better than ever. One of the biggest improvements is that the site will be more convenient and easier to navigate for all of our readers who use mobile devices, such as smart phones, iPads and tablets. The site will intuitively adapt to whatever device a consumer is using. The new site also includes larger photos, an emphasis on videos, related story links and a fresher, more open look.

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