Everybody loves a parade. In Lee County, the annual Spirit of Christmas Parade will once again be a memorable one. The grand marshal for the 2011 event will be none other than country music star Luke Bryan. A native of the county and local high school graduate, when Bryan sings "I'll be Home for Christmas," he really means it!

It is a fact of life that bad things do happen to good people. The joy comes when one of those folks keeps moving onward and upward and, despite personal tragedy, has a positive influence on others. Charlice Noble-Jones is just such a person. A survivor of 9/11 and already a widow (and mother) at the young age of 35, this Lamar Reese Elementary School fourth-grade teacher wrote one of the best of 2,000 essays, and it will soon change her life ... and this time in a good way. In an essay sent to Snap Fitness 24/7 telling why she wanted a franchise in the company's business, she offered just one reason: her 7-year old son. Wanting to make the best possible life for him, Noble-Jones wrote from her heart right into the hearts of the judges. The franchise will include a newly constructed building along with all the bells and whistles to get the new business and its owner off to a good start. Congratulations!

Combine clowns, superheroes and music with young children, and the fun is limitless. So, too, is the opportunity to get the attention of the youngsters in the mix. This is exactly what happened at the annual Kid's Fire Safety Day at the Albany Civic Center last week. The children, about 4,000 of them, learned all about fire prevention and what to do in case of fire. Some will remember everything taught, while others, not so much. In the end, if even one life is saved from the field trip, it was well worth all the effort it took to pull off such an event. Thank you to the Albany Fire Department, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, as well as teachers, parents, bus drivers and anyone else who had a hand in Kid's Fire Safety Day.

Officials with the Dougherty County Health Department are making it easier than ever this year to get a flu shot. Instead of just one location, the vaccine is now available at all four of the county health department locations. Vaccines are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older, and the cost is covered by most insurance policies. This move helps relieve the waiting time for the shot as well as any excuse not to get one.

EMC Engineering Services, located on U.S. Highway 19 South in Leesburg, collects cell phones to be reconditioned or recycled for use by American service personnel far from home. Macon State Prison recently gave EMC Engineering 1,205 cell phones confiscated from prisoners. A companywide collection has been ongoing at the Leesburg office, and the campaign continues. Approximately half of the donated phones in good condition can be refurbished and used by troops overseas to stay in contact with their much-missed family and friends. Those phones that cannot be re-used are recycled, and the money is used to purchase prepaid phone cards -- also for the troops. Cell Phones for Soldiers is not a new program but one that continues to serve an extremely important purpose. With the holiday season just around the corner, the ability to call home will mean even more. The EMC Engineering office in Leesburg is eager to continue as a drop-off location and for this, the company and its employees are deserving of a hefty "thumbs up!"

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board