Ashland is a community that cherishes its proud past as it works hard to build a brighter economic future.

This Schuylkill County borough, which is the focus today of the latest in The News-Item's "Spotlight" series on area towns, came into being because of the anthracite coal industry, as did its sister communities in eastern Northumberland County. The glory that was coal is still recalled, for present and future generations, at Pioneer Tunnel, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state. The mine tour has brought countless visitors to Ashland over the years, all of whom were no doubt impressed by the friendliness of Ashland residents.

The past is also celebrated through the efforts of the Ashland Area Historic Preservation Society, which is the repository of valuable memorabilia and historical information dealing with the history of those institutions and traditions that played such an important role in the borough's development. The society's resources enable people to fully appreciate such Ashland treasures as the state hospital, the movie theaters that are now just a dim memory and those community organizations and churches that did so much to enhance the quality of life for generations of Ashland residents.

Ashland Downtown Inc. (ADI) and an enlightened municipal government have laid the groundwork for a revitalization effort that will serve the borough well for decades to come. Thanks to this effort, Ashland's downtown (Centre Street) is much more vibrant than the business districts in some neighboring communities. The opening of new businesses and the obvious pride business owners and most residents take in their properties has done much to enhance the borough's positive image.

Volunteerism, which, sad to say, has taken a back seat in many towns, is alive and well in Ashland. This is evident in the vitality of service organizations and in the community events that delight both residents and visitors. The upcoming eighth annual Old-Fashioned Christmas is but one example of Ashland's commitment to maintaining a strong sense of community. Ashland is a town where residents enjoy nothing better than spending happy times with friends and neighbors.

Of course, Ashland suffers from the same economic, social and cultural challenges that plague all municipalities in the anthracite region. But Ashland officials, community leaders and residents have maintained a positive attitude and have shown a willingness to work together for the common good. In short, the community pride and commitment to hard work, so evident in Ashland, could serve as an excellent example for those naysayers in other towns who refuse to shake off their "depressed area" mentality.