One of the most touching events of the holiday season is the Lights of Love tree-lighting ceremony. Donors sponsor lights in memory of a loved one lost to cancer, to one suffering from cancer or a survivor of the dreaded disease. The 2011 celebration, sponsored by the Junior Women’s Club of Albany and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, was the 28th one and continues to grow. In the struggling economy of 2010, $37,000 was raised to fund support services for cancer patients. This year, while just as many people continue to fight for their financial lives, an amazing amount of $40,000 was raised.

Had it not been for the CRCT cheating scandal, which does not belong in this editorial, the story about 46 new jobs for Albany would likely have been front page fodder last Wednesday. Equinox, a local chemical company, is expanding, taking up residence in the old MacGregor Golf building and adding almost four dozens new jobs. While this move will ease a loan burden held by the city (and thereby, the taxpayers) for the facility, it is the business itself that deserves the big hooray. CEO Mark Grimaldi and his team have built a global business with its headquarters right here in Dougherty County. Two years ago, there was a $5 million expansion. The current additional jobs along with an investment of $1.5 million will be in evidence by June 2012. Thank you, Equinox ... for starting here and staying here.

Albany State University has built new dormitories as fast as finances would allow as the enrollment of on-campus students has risen. With the move to the more modern housing facilities, ASU is not currently using Wiley Hall or Gibson Hall. So, two wise men put their heads together and made a great move. President Anthony Parker of Albany Technical College and President Everette J. Freeman of ASU have signed a housing agreement. ATC students from outside of the Albany area will be allowed to live on the ASU campus while attending classes. The buildings will not remain vacant and the students will enjoy the safety and affordability of on-campus housing. The agreement is believed to be a first in the state of its kind but undoubtedly will catch on in other locations.

Congratulations to the recently-named officers of the year for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Reggie Rachals named Fred Tedder as detention officer of the year, Kristy Watson, as communications officer of the year and Capt. Keith Houston as deputy of the year. Houston was also the recipient of the lifesaver award as were Sgt. Chris Eubanks and Capt. Jeff Kirt.

Dougherty County’s Sheriff’s Department continues its ever-present involvement in the community. Lt. Terron Hayes and Officer Vivian Hunt recently made a trip to Morningside Elementary School to talk with third, fourth and fifth grade students about the seriousness of bullying and its consequences. Volunteers and deputies were also seen giving out meals on Willie Pitts Jr. Road to anyone driving by on Dec. 17. A few days later, 18 children were treated by the department to a meal courtesy of the Tokoyo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar followed by a Christmas shopping trip. Before heading home, each child was given a new winter coat donated by Central Monitoring. From the kids, parents and Santa, thank each of you for all your assistance.