As most locals know, the spa town has long had “a heart for the arts”.

So we’re starting today’s numbers column with a “thumbs up” to three Lakeside seniors who recently won Thea Foundation college scholarships for their work in this area.

Jackson McAfee received a $7,000 scholarship in the performing arts category; Hope Drake received a $3,000 scholarship in the performing arts category; and Aerial Haney received a $3,000 scholarship in the creative writing category.

According to information from Thea Foundation, more than 450 students participated in this year’s competition and a record $219,000 in scholarships was awarded.

Named after Thea Kay Leopoulos, the foundation highlights the importance of the arts in the development of our youth.

Congratulations to this artistic trio.

And we send a salute and a “thumbs up” to the Garland County Veterans Memorial Committee for sponsoring an inaugural event to commemorate National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29.

The special program — held at 118 Orange St. — featured Master Sgt. Joe Burke as guest speaker. Burke was born in Hot Springs, graduated from Glenwood High School in May 1955, joined the US Marine Corps in September 1955, and joined the US Army Reserve in 1958.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in education from Henderson State University in 1963, he taught at Pine Bluff, Caddo Gap, Hot Springs, and Lake Hamilton Inns.

At the end of Burke’s address, attendees were introduced to Linda Murphy, whose father, Cpl. Larry Harvey, died in Vietnam before he was born.

It is scheduled to honor Vietnam War veterans on March 29 every year.

In the meantime, we give another “thumbs up” to the Garland County Library and to Sarah Richardson, Executive Director of the Garland County Literacy Board for raising awareness of literacy issues in our community.

During last week’s library presentation — which was also livestreamed — Richardson cited economic, health and social issues associated with illiteracy, noting that “20 percent of Garland County residents have a third-grade literacy level while 31% of the population is functioning below an eighth-grade reading level.” She also said that “just bringing every ‘low-literacy’ adult to a level of sixth-grade reading would add $2.2 trillion to the U.S. economy “and that such a boost would mean $500 million for the Garland County economy alone.”

The Literacy Council offers a wide range of free, confidential literacy services and those interested can call 501-624-7323 or visit http://www.literacycouncilgarlandcounty.org for more information.

On the good deeds front, we’re giving a “thumbs up” to the six members of Hot Springs Emblem Club No. 194 for helping serve approximately 80 lunches at the Eleanor Klugh Jackson House for Crisis Intervention Services Inc. on the 30th March.

Our thanks to Emblem Club volunteers Margie Yates, Pam Gruber, Alene Meacham, Jerri Roper, Sally Hatten, president of this community service project, and Pam McDaniel, president of the organization.

Your service to others is greatly appreciated, ladies.

Here’s another well-deserved “thumbs-up” at the 2022 Hot Springs Polar Plunge, the premier fundraiser for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas.

February’s “Thrill of the Chill” benefit was held at the outdoor pool at Hot Springs Health and Fitness Club and was experienced by 94 “divers”, including 11 teams from law enforcement, businesses, schools, fraternities and a civic club. In total, participants raised $18,539 and increased public knowledge about Special Olympics Arkansas.

Congratulations to all those who have contributed to the success of this most worthy cause.

A Hot Springs resident recently emailed this columnist about another resort town event, commenting “Bravo” to the world’s first-ever 19th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was a huge success. The crowds were the largest ever after a two-year COVID hiatus. Congratulations to Steve Arrison, Bill Solleder, Alexis Hampo and the entire Visit Hot Springs team for all their hard work in making this festive event so memorable.

Thank you, King Tim Culbreth and Queen Cindy Baswell for your kindness. And thanks also to Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman and Jamie Pittman for bringing extra excitement to this always-awaited occasion.

The Thumbs column appears in The Sentinel-Record on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. The journal welcomes comments and suggestions from readers, which should be submitted in writing with a phone number and home address for contact and verification purposes. This information is kept confidential.