Huntsville is aiming to become the first city in Alabama - and one of just 24 worldwide - celebrated for its compassion toward people of all races, religions and economic circumstances.
The Huntsville City Council last week voted to begin working with the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities, whose goal is to make human kindness "a clear, luminous force in our polarized world."
Making the decision to become a "Compassionate City" is just the first step.
Multicultural Affairs Director Kenny Anderson said he will spend the next few weeks putting together an application illustrating Huntsville's softer side. He plans to do that by highlighting the good works of dozens of area nonprofit groups including United Way, the Hispanic Latino Advisory Council, Interfaith Mission Service, 100x Church, North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, Asha Kiran and Phoenix Industries.
Asha Kiran helps Southeast Asian immigrants dealing with domestic abuse; Phoenix Industries provides jobs, job placement and other services to people with disabilities.
"We don't just want to say we're compassionate; we want to quantify it," Anderson told AL.com in a Thursday interview. "We want to show that we're not just committed to business as usual - that everybody has a voice, and everybody has a right to have a seat at the table."
A New York City native, Anderson said a "Compassionate City" designation would help show the world how far Huntsville has come since the days of segregation.
"I think it would definitely send a message," he said, "especially when you think about the history of this state and some of the outside perceptions."
VIDEO: Here is the City Council of Huntsville on September 26, 2013, as the Council endorsed the International Compassionate Cities Campaign and the Charter for Compassion, and proclaimed Huntsville a City of Compassion. Watch Sheryl Doblin, beginning at exactly the 1:00 mark in the video.