By Dan Haley
There's a lot of goodness in these communities we write about, in Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest. And there is a lot of pain and need. The intersection of that goodness and that pain is often found in the astounding range of social services and community activism which these towns support.
We all know that we are blessed by these many agencies and grassroots contributors – some decades old, some just springing up to fill a need. But what exactly they do, how we might volunteer to help or donate money, often feels a little vague. That's why each fall, Wednesday Journal and the Forest Park Review publish this special section, Community of Caring. It's probably our favorite section of the year.
Each fall we choose a dozen local agencies or programs and tell their stories. Purposely we don't write about the executive directors. We don't offer a treatise on how screwed up government funding is hurting these efforts, though it most certainly is hurting. We're not plugging their capital campaigns or reporting on their debt levels.
No. We are writing about the people who have come to these local agencies or joined these movements, about the help they have found and given, about the challenges they still face, about the growth, the healing which has begun. We are telling the stories of people. Maybe it is your daughter, your neighbor's kid, a distant acquaintance who has benefitted or joined up. Maybe you are fortunate and don't know people who have turned to Sarah's Inn or Thrive. Maybe you haven't connected yet with the energy of Root-Riot's community gardening efforts or seen the good done by the Gay-Straight Alliance at OPRF. Maybe you think the YMCA is just a fitness center that sells Christmas trees.
In the next 20 pages we're going to open your eyes to creativity, to human resilience, to generosity, to possibility. Our storytellers, again this year, are Deb Quantock McCarey and David Pierini. Deb has been writing this section for years. She brings such an ear to these stories, to teasing out a quiet thought, to observing a telling detail. And David Pierini is our staff photographer. Yes, David takes great high school football pictures and 4th of July parade images. But David shines when taking portraits of real people, in their space, in their element. Together these two tell real life stories.
Thanks also to Sky Hatter, our editorial designer, who lovingly put these pages together. And thanks finally to Alicia Plomin, our sales coordinator, who this week coordinated all the "fact boxes" you find about each agency alongside their story.
Read, and then act. Join up. Join in. Send money. Tell a friend. These are great towns we live in and these pages help explain why.
About the section's writer
Deb Quantock McCarey is a freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all of its publications, including Chicago Parent. As a "green" person who chooses to ride her bike and walk to work and everywhere else year-round, Deb has also completed two Chicago Marathons. In addition to that, she is an avid urban gardener, an active participant in social justice issues and involved in several community service projects, many of which she has written about on her blog, Deb's Big Backyard, which appears on OakPark.com. She is also a writer/producer at Lyman Street Productions (www.lymanstreetproductions.com). Deb is a mother of two grown sons and she resides with her spouse, Kevin, and their big dog and two small, bossy cats in Oak Park.