Art Cummings, Editor Emeritus: It is my sincere hope the families and loved ones of the victims of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown can somehow find the strength and solace to go forward with their lives in the coming year.
It is my fervent hope the people of Connecticut and the United States will respond to the shock and horror of the events of Friday, Dec. 14, in Newtown by pulling together and enacting rational, common-sense, non- partisan solutions to this nation's mass-shooting crisis.
It is my wish the solutions include sensible gun regulations, including a ban on weaponry that can kill many victims in rapid-fire succession; the destigmatization of mental illness and the devotion of greater resources to mental health treatment; and a concerted effort to change the culture of violence in our society.
I also wish, in the wake of Sandy Hook, each individual will do everything in his or her power to make this a better and happier world by reaching out to neighbors and friends, helping those in need and performing random acts of kindness.
I am hopeful the economy will improve dramatically in 2013, so those who wish to work can find jobs, those who are in desperate financial straits can rise out of poverty, those who are struggling can have better lives, and those who are homeless can find shelter.
On the local level, I hope that 2013 is the year in which New Milford takes great strides toward ensuring that its jewel of a downtown reaches its potential as a destination.
In that vein, it is my wish that town officials and businesspeople work together to fill key vacant storefronts and create a desirable mix of shops and restaurants in the village center; that the town turn its wonderful Bank Street business district into a calling-card pedestrian zone on a more regular basis than on just one day a year; and that serious long-term solutions are sought to alleviate the traffic congestion problems that prevent downtown New Milford from being the ultimately appealing place it could be.
I wish that 2013 will be the year that governmental and preservation officials will take significant strides toward the restoration of the historic -- but sadly deteriorating -- Boardman Bridge in New Milford.
I wish, too, the coming year will see significant steps taken toward the restoration of passenger rail service from Danbury and Brookfield to New Milford and points north.
I also hope the residents of the Region 12 school district towns of Washington, Bridgewater and Roxbury will work harmoniously to create a long-term solution to the challenge of a steadily decreasing school population.
Most of all, I sincerely wish all of our readers, neighbors and friends a New Year filled with happiness, good health and peace.
Norm Cummings, Editor --
Our world is abundant in its wonders and rich in its beauty.
Sadly, it can often be cruel and insensitive.
My wish for each and every one of you in the Greater New Milford area for 2013 is the ability to focus as much as possible on the positives.
It's not an easy task given such unthinkable tragedies as Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The world could quite possibly slide deeper into violence and insensitivity if we don't make strong efforts to reach a reasonable accord on the regulation of guns, treat those with mental illness with sensitivity and respect, and somehow weaken the nearly pervasive grip violence has on our society.
Many in our communities responded to Sandy Hook with prayer, with caring, thoughtful gestures, by fundraising, and by volunteering when and where volunteers were needed.
All those acts accurately reflect the wonderful community spirit of our towns.
During the last 18 months, the Greater New Milford area has been adversely affected by several heavy hits from Mother Nature. We've bounced back.
In August, a house explosion forever altered the lives of the Wilkinson and Fratino families in New Milford. Again, the community responded with love and compassion.
Then Dec. 14 in Newtown... what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a harsh violation of everything we all believe in.
Yet again, the communities we call home rose to the occasion for those in mourning.
Still, in a world destined to experience more such tragedies, we must remember to make our day-to-day existence a happier one for ourselves and those we impact each and every day.
Remember to thank the clerk in the post office, the cashier at the gas station and the grocery store. You'll feel better and so will they.
None of us knows what's around the next corner. We have today. Let's make it the best it can be.
When behind the wheel of the car, don't tailgate, don't text and don't use the phone (either handheld or otherwise!). Focus on driving so everyone will get safely to the respective destinations.
While planning for the future, why not attempt everything in our power to make today, tomorrow and the next day brighter for those we come in contact with. as well as ourselves?
We should go out of our way to thank police, firefighters and other emergency responders for their efforts on our behalf.
Students and their parents should be sure to thank a teacher, just because...
The world will be a brighter place if we carry a positive attitude with us each and every day.
Say hello to those we pass on the street; an accompanying smile is a great touch, too.
Our world throws lots of challenges our way, but we're a resilient bunch. The problems of the world are largely of our doing, yet it is surely within our grasp to make our society and world a better place.
Let's start today.
I wish for the Greater New Milford area a very Happy, Healthy New Year. I will do my best to greet each of you with a smile next time we meet.
Deborah Rose, Writer/photographer --
Topping my wish list is, like last year, harmony, peace and kindness.
Too often we have good intentions for how we want to live at the start of a new year but, unfortunately, as the year rolls along, many of us become caught up in everyday life and neglect to incorporate those good intentions into our lives.
We must first be kind to ourselves, including our minds and bodies, and make room for peace in our hearts. I believe harmony follows and manifests itself in amazing ways.
When we take care of ourselves, we can more healthily extend these same gifts -- kindness, peace and harmony -- unto our friends, loved ones and, yes, even strangers.
Our community experienced several major events in the past year, including a house explosion, Hurricane Sandy and, most recently, the shootings in Newtown.
With each of these tragedies, residents have opened their doors without hesitation to greet their neighbors and help them in a way reminiscent of 9/11.
These unfortunate events have reminded us of our humanity and our need to be with and among one another in a harmonious, peaceful and kind way, not just in times of tragedy but all of the time.
Let us keep harmony, peace and kindness at the forefront of our minds and let them unfold in our hearts and in our community in beautiful ways in 2013.
My next wish is for communication.
There's always room for improved communication, whether it be among teachers and administration, teachers and students, parents and children, friends, a board of education, a board of selectmen, etc.
Set aside differences and hear each other out. If you have something to say, say it with grace.
Open your heart and reach out to those with whom you may not have had communication in a while.
Drop a card in the mail, send an email or text, or pick up the phone and call them.
A simple "hello" might be just the thing they need to brighten their day.
Big changes came to the New Milford this past fall with the opening of several anchor stores -- Kohl's, Home Goods and Big Lots -- at the Litchfield Crossings shopping plaza on Route 7 South.
I can't say I'm keen on seeing the beautiful New Milford landscape of my childhood disappear for commercial means, but the stores have already been an asset to the community, with the biggest asset being tax revenue.
However, there are many vacant storefronts at Litchfield Crossings, as well as throughout the town.
My hope for 2013 is for economic improvement, so people without jobs can find something so they can support themselves and their families and for storefronts to be filled.
I also wish for a growth in respect and harmony among individuals in various organizations. I have heard rumblings of some of the disagreements and conflicts.
Let's face it, it can be especially challenging in today's world for members of the younger generation to communicate with the folks of the generation ahead of them.
After all, we younger folks tend to be much more up on the latest technology and we tend to think we know what's best. We may see our elders as too set in their ways, too old-school, too traditional.
But the reality is, our elders have much more life experience than we do. Sometimes, they may know what's best.
Let us be mindful, respectful and and honor the wisdom of our elders.
I've wished for passenger rail service for many years and it seems it may be on the list for many more years to come.
Let's hope it's not on the wish list as long as the Super 7 bypass was on the wish list of the generations before me.
It seems town budgets are always a point of contention for communities. As I said last year, let us be mindful of our school budgets.
Our children are our future. It is our responsibility to provide the resources, tools and classes they need to be successful.
I wish for residents to get out and about to experience all this area has to offer.
Visit the historical societies, town parks, theaters and businesses, or consider joining a civic group -- a woman's club, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts.
Or get involved with the VNA, a church, Habitat for Humanity, Healing the Children or other valuable organizations.
There are so many wonderful ways to be a part of your community.
Susan Tuz, reporter --
My wish this year is that our shared communities heal from the horrific events in Sandy Hook on Dec. 14. The shock waves have reverberated into every community.
I wish for peace of mind and heart for those with close connections to those lost that awful day.
I wish for a change in the national culture regarding gun ownership, that Congress revives the ban on assault weapons. We have learned all too painfully such laws affect our communities directly, however small, however bucolic they may seem.
I also wish Gov. Malloy will see clear to increase spending for mental health services in the state, and the legislature will say "no" to further cuts in funding for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
I heard someone say the other day "we have to identify those who need help." My wish is the funding stops being continually cut in state budgets that provide the needed mental health care.
In closing, my wishes include a hope that a cold eye will not be cast on those with mental health issues in the wake of the Sandy Hook rampage.
From my role on the Housatonic Mental Health Council, I know one in six residents in the state seeks mental health care at some time in his or her life.
Roberta Buddle, office manager --
I can think of many wishes for the residents of the Greater New Milford Area this holiday season.
However, with the events of Dec. 14 in Newtown, my thoughts and prayers turn to those affected by this terrible tragedy.
I pray they find the comfort, strength and help they need to get through each and every day. May we keep them in our thoughts and prayers throughout the coming year.
Let 2013 be the year residents of our towns step forward and offer their services to fill a vacancy on a local town committee.
One can also offer to prepare and serve a meal at a local soup kitchen, or spend a night at a homeless shelter. And don't forget our churches as they also need volunteers.
I cannot forget the programs and services available to the residents of our towns provided by the staff of the New Milford Visiting Nurse and Hospice.
If you are ever looking for an opportunity to volunteer for a great organization, please give them a call.
With the new businesses opening on Route 7 in New Milford, many new jobs came to the area. I hope new tenants are found to occupy the vacant store fronts in downtown New Milford.
It would be great welcoming new businesses to town.
As I looked over our beautiful Village Green this holiday season, I became increasingly thankful for the many people every year who take time out of their busy schedules to place and decorate the trees and lamp posts for our residents and visitors to enjoy.
I think we have the most beautiful Village Green in the state.
My best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful 2013.