Based on the world you see represented in social media and on the news, you might not think there are still places left in America where people are kind and treat each other by the Golden Rule. But these places do exist, as proven by the 450 nominations sent into Reader's Digest answering the question "Do you live in the Nicest Place in America?"
10Best teamed up with Reader's Digest and Good Morning America to help whittle down the field. We're pleased to announce we have a winner...
Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tenn.
Yassin's Falafel House is dedicated to paying it forward — Photo courtesy of Amanda Friedman / Reader's Digest
Yassin Terou left Syria in 2011 and arrived in America unable to speak English. Seven years later, he’s a pillar of the Knoxville community and has turned his Yassin’s Falafel restaurant into a home away from home for the refugees he employs and for anyone who stops in for a delicious meal.
"I’m not here just to make falafel and make money," Terou said. "I’m here to build this community."
Though Yassin's Falafel House is officially the Nicest Place in America, here are the nine other very worthy finalists:
The spirit of giving is present year-round in Bothell — Photo courtesy of Mary Leah Moore
Pop into Beca’s Brews for a cup of coffee and a kind word from Will, Bothell’s friendliest resident. While May 10 is the town’s official "Cup of Kindness day," when everyone is urged to share a good deed, that’s the town spirit the other 364 days of the year, too.
The welcoming town of Ellijay — Photo courtesy of Gilmer Chamber & Welcome Center
In Ellijay, locals have a tradition of not turning away strangers. The reader who nominated this town popped into a crowded diner and was ready to leave when the locals scooted over to make room. Seven years later, he moved here with his family. And lately, another kind of visitor has been looking to call it home. Migrant workers have started to settle in – and they have been welcomed with open arms.
Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md.
This Baltimore library is blazing new trails in niceness — Photo courtesy of Enoch Pratt Free Library
Baltimore residents who need legal advice, job leads, or a good book to read can pop into the Enoch Pratt Free Library – or just keep an eye out for the big bus marked "Mobile Job Center," a modern twist on the old book mobile, and a model for libraries across the country.
Kalamazoo residents are "Kalamazoo Strong" — Photo courtesy of Sherry Ransford Ramsdell
Kalamazoo has made a vow to all of its public high-school students: If you get into college, it’s paid for – as long as you keep your grades up. The "Kalamazoo Promise" is funded by anonymous donors who will shell out $15 million in scholarships this year, the program’s 12th year.
After gun violence marred the city a few years back, the city gave itself a new motto as it supported survivors: Kalamazoo Strong.
What Hurricane Harvey left behind — Photo courtesy of Trish Johnson
The Houston area had no shortage of heroes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Katy stands as an example of hanging tough, neighbor helping neighbor. The owner of the local Buc-ee’s convenience store told first responders to come and take what they needed. Bass Pro Shops donated boats for search and rescue. People left their own flooded homes to help evacuate others.
Of their efforts, Mayor Chuck Brawner said simply, "We just did what Katy has always done, we all just got together and helped each other out."
Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, Texas
Everyone is welcome to at Life Moves Yoga, including soldiers and their families — Photo courtesy of Judith Woodward
Who says tough guys don’t do yoga? Drop into the Life Moves Yoga studio in Killeen, Texas, just outside the gates of the Fort Hood Army base, and you’ll find wellness classes geared towards soldiers, including wounded warriors and their spouses.
Mower County, Minn.
Residents of Mower County create a true sense of community — Photo courtesy of Laura Helle
Even in a state known for "Minnesota Nice," the people of Austin and the surrounding Mower County stand out for their friendliness and generosity. The local PayItForward initiative has helped raise money for a baby with brittle-bone disease, replaced a stolen snowblower for an elderly resident, and built brand-new bathrooms for six local families at no charge. And that’s just for starters.
North Evergreen Street in Burbank, Calif.
You can feel the love on North Evergreen in Burbank — Photo courtesy of Ashley Erikson
In the city where new versions of "reality" are manufactured every day, North Evergreen St. is as real as it gets. Neighbors share vegetables from their gardens, there's a bike ride to a different fun event every Thursday night, and an ever-present community spirit worthy of any feel-good movie made in the studios across town.
North Riverside, Ill.
In North Riverside, the community takes caring for each other to another level — Photo courtesy of Tina Valentino
Is there a rule book for being nice? In North Riverside there is. The town has put together a 65-page manual on caring for each other that can be boiled down into one dictate: the Golden Rule. Each block has its own volunteer captain, who welcomes new neighbors, helps seniors run errands, makes sure kids play nice, and so much more.