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posted: 2/8/2012 5:00 AM

Creative help that comes from the community

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  • Alpine Chapel's Thrive ministry in Lake Zurich provides clothing and other services to those in need.

      Alpine Chapel's Thrive ministry in Lake Zurich provides clothing and other services to those in need.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

If we've learned anything in recent years, it is that our communities are home to people who have a knack for solving problems.

That's especially true when it comes to finding grass roots ways to help those in need.

The call goes out by a local food pantry that supplies are running low because of rising demand, and soon, someone is organizing a food drive that stocks the shelves.

High school students collect and wrap gifts so underprivileged kids can have a happy holiday.

And many of us participate in events to help those struggling with oppressive medical bills from a serious illness.

Where are the needs in your community? Are there other creative ways to help without relying on a government program?

It's when that kind of thinking and discussion takes place that real help occurs.

Two such projects we've found aim to help single moms and other young families struggling with some of life's pricey essentials.

If you've bought diapers lately, you know how expensive they are. The Diaper Bank Partnership of Lake County launched recently with the help of more than a dozen groups in Cuba and Wauconda townships, as part of a national effort.

Seeded with a donation of 201,000 diapers from Kimberly-Clark Corp., the aim is to help families struggling to provide clean, dry diapers for their children.

It's an extension of the idea pioneered three years ago by Jim Swarthout while he was rector at St. Paul Episcopal Church in McHenry.

The program strives to be self-sufficient once the initial donation is gone.

Equally important and just as costly for single moms and families in need is providing clothing for children. Kids grow so fast that it's tough for many families to keep up.

The "Children's Closet" started by the Alpine Chapel in Lake Zurich grew out of the church's "Thrive" ministry to help single moms.

As part of that ministry, the families gather twice a month to share a donated dinner at the church. The kids play or do homework, while moms hear about topics from healthy food on a budget to advice on coping during hectic times.

Alpine's director of compassion ministry Donna Riemer, who was raised by a single mother, noticed moms exchanging kids' clothing and bringing in items that were no longer being used.

An idea was born.

The stipulation is visitors take only what they need; the hope is they will replenish the supply with clothing their kids may outgrow, keeping the inventory ample and fresh.

The common thread with these programs is they started with local people who found a way to help their neighbors.

Fueled by compassion, they are creative responses to community needs.

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