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Holiday lights

Thumbs Up: Dale and Judy Flemming would like to send a thumbs up to all the people who added a special touch to the Christmas season with holiday lights. "The Alexandria area is beautiful with all the holiday lights aglow and our downtown area is second to none," said the Flemings in an email. "To all the people that keep the spirit of Christmas shining brightly into the night, thank you!" If you want to see some of the festive displays, check out the winners of the newspaper's "Light Up the Night" contest published in Wednesday's newspaper.

The beauty of books

Thumbs Up: Nothing can replace the experience of reading a good book — not electronically, but an actual paper-bound book. That's why it's so exciting to see the success of this year's Project Bookshelf, which is sponsored by the Alexandria Area Branch of AAUW (American Association of University of Women). "The generosity of individuals and organizations meant we were able to donate 475 books to Jingle Bells," said Georgia Wahlberg with the local branch. "Many children and young adults in the Alexandria area will enjoy the gift of a book this holiday season because of you."

Not heeding the plows

Thumbs Down: So far, snowplows have not been out much in our area this winter but crashes with plows have already been reported in Minnesota. Drivers should be prepared for what lies ahead. Last year, there were 84 crashes involving the public and snowplows in Minnesota. Remember to stay well behind the plow, at least 10 car lengths back, away from the snow clouds the plows produce. Other advice from transportation department: Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions. Don't drive into a snow cloud. Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions. Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt. Turn off the cruise control. Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip. Don't drive distracted.

New Text-to-911 system is working

Thumbs Up: The first year of Minnesota's statewide Text-to-911 system is showing that the service is saving lives and making it easier to contact first responders, according to the Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks (DPS-ECN) division. It reported that dispatchers received more than 4,500 texts since the program's deployment in December 2017, an average of 375 texts per month. The new system is helping the 20 percent of Minnesotans who have some form of hearing loss. "Text-to-911 is an alternative lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm's way if they called 911," said DPS-ECN Director Dana Wahlberg. "But it's also clear that Text-to-911 is solution to the communication barrier for deaf and hard of hearing Minnesotans experience in an emergency." Here are some examples Wahlberg cited: A suicidal individual did not feel comfortable talking to someone, so they texted for help instead. An abducted woman texted 911, leading to her captor's arrest. Children who were fearful of being overhead when calling 911 have texted when their parents were in a verbal or physical conflict. A hunter became lost in the woods on a cold night and didn't have enough signal strength to call 911, but did have enough to text 911. A person had difficulty breathing from a panic attack and could not speak, so they texted 911. A reminder: Text-to-911 should only be used in emergencies and when speaking is not an option.

Friendly service

Thumbs Up: The Alexandria Post Office is providing fast, friendly service this holiday season — so much so it prompted Jody Niesen of Alexandria to give this thumbs up: "I have been to the Alexandria Post Office several times this holiday season to mail packages. I've noticed that although there are still numerous customers, the line is moving much faster than other years. The service counter personnel have been extremely helpful and courteous."

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If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.