Calling all unsung heroes

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My job is probably cooler than yours.

I get paid to ride in hot-air balloons. I’m forced to attend parties and galas. I’ve flown over the Mississippi River in a helicopter with no door, and I’ve raced up a flooded river in a speedboat.

If someone important comes to town, it’s my job to talk to them. I’ve driven toward tornadoes. Large drug and gun seizures always warrant a viewing. And I’ve gotten to know nearly all of the best and brightest youth in the area.

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Obviously, I have nothing about which to complain.

But perhaps the coolest part of my job has nothing to do with my experiences and everything to do with yours.

And it’s time to begin work!

Each year, when duty calls, I spend some time getting to know the greasy wheels of the Miss-Lou.

First, on, say, Jan. 20, I write a column seeking nominations from the general public for a few good men and women. We call these folks the Unsung Heroes of the community.

With a little luck and a lot of community help, we’ll receive a nice, tall stack of Unsung Hero nominations.

Some of you will tell us about your neighbor who tutors area children in their den; others will mention a church volunteer who always arrives early and leaves late.

In the end, I’ll coordinate a few of our staff members and we’ll cull through the nominations, narrowing the list to 10 or less and naming them Unsung Heroes.

Then the real fun begins for me as I get on the phone and notify each humble, bashful, unaware hero of their new “sung” title.

They never expect it, and most won’t willingly accept it. But with a few carefully placed words — I tell, not ask — I’ll set up a time for our photographer to take a nice portrait. From there, we do the rest, whether the hero approves of the attention or not.

Our annual special section honoring our Unsung Heroes and the Citizen of the Year will be included in the Sunday, Feb. 28, edition along with Profile 2010.

And sometime in March, we’ll have a reception to honor each hero, making my job even cooler.

For, you see, hot-air balloon rides are nice. Parties and “important” people are OK. But the really cool part of my job is getting to know the truly unsung heroes of our community.

The salt of the earth is right here in Natchez, and most of you will never get the chance to meet them.

I, however, meet at least eight great new folks each year.

But I need your help first. Please be thinking of who in your world is always working for others but hasn’t yet gotten the praise and attention they deserve.

Send an e-mail or mail a letter to our office telling me a bit about the person you’d like to nominate. Tell me why they are heroes and what they do to make the Miss-Lou a better place.

As a nominator, you can keep your identity a secret from the person you nominate if you would like. I would, however, like your phone number in case I have questions.

Please send all nominations by Feb. 12, and include contact information for the person you are nominating, if you can.

Nominations can be e-mailed to or mail them to Unsung Heroes, P.O. Box 1447, Natchez, MS 39121.

You’ll not only be making my job cooler, but you’ll be offering a well-deserved pat on the back to the heroes around you.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or