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posted: 9/22/2011 4:00 AM

A good newspaper reports news that helps people

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When you think of what makes a news story, what are some of the words that come to mind? Government? Prominence? Schools? Murder? Tragedy? Money, Scandal, Corruption?

Well, here's a theme you might not have considered: help.

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There are few concepts more naturally associated with neighborliness than the notion of being available in a time of need, so it's fitting that stories about people needing or getting help from their fellow suburbanites appear frequently and prominently in the local newspaper.

One of the most heart-rending such cases appeared as a front-page centerpiece on Tuesday as Daily Herald staff writer Jessica Cilella told the story of an Elk Grove Village family facing monumental medical bills. The father, Mark Evans, has recently lost his job. The mother, Joan, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Together, they're raising triplets, all with cerebral palsy, and an autistic son.

As their needs mount, family member Patti Stockwell and other friends and neighbors have rallied to stage a fundraiser aimed at providing some relief -- if not also, at least, a strong, comforting shoulder.

"I get overwhelmed that people care enough for us to (hold a fundraiser)," said Joan Evans. "I just don't want to overburden everybody."

She needn't feel guilty. Suburban residents are constantly demonstrating a "he-ain't-heavy" approach to their neighbors and friends in need.

In Lake County, for instance, Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak told on Monday about a once-quiet effort by Vernon Hills police to provide coats and clothing for veterans and their families that grew into a project involving students and staff at Vernon Hills and Grayslake high schools.

Columnist Dave Heun told recently how, after losing his sales job at Macy's four years ago, St. Charles resident Rick Kautz has used his "down time" helping the Open Door Clinic, an agency that helps the poor and homeless and families affected by AIDS.

Thanks to Kautz' efforts and energy, actress Patty Duke appeared at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles to raise money for the organization (including, by the way, a question-and-answer session for the audience with Duke and Daily Herald movie critic Dann Gire).

Celebrities actually figure into such stories fairly often.

A Burt Constable column told this week how stars like Tina Fey and Steven Colbert are rallying to the side of an old Second City pal by helping out with a fundraiser for Mount Prospect resident Judy Fabjance, who is recovering from breast cancer surgery.

And, columnist Jamie Sotonoff told of the life-changing experience that befell Paolo Presta, of Hoffman Estates, when Oprah Winfrey got the struggling Hoffman Estates actor a walk-on role on the then-popular television series "Will and Grace." That case has more to do with giving someone's life a lift than with alleviating suffering, but it nevertheless shows that, in a world where murder, tragedy, the stress of school, the controversy of politics and money, corruption and scandal have so much more dramatic pull on the public's attention, good old-fashioned neighborliness still abounds.

So, on that list of subjects that can result in good reading, it's gratifying to note that "helping each other" has a such a prominent place in the activities of suburban life.

Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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