One of the true joys of working for a newspaper is the chance you get to help make the world a little bit better place. That's the whole point, after all.
Another of those joys is how the job so often puts us in touch with people who reflect what's good about humanity -- people who want to help others and so often not for any credit. There are so many of these people out here in the suburbs. They're our neighbors and they come from every walk of life. And to be able to so repeatedly come across them, well, it's an inspiration.
Which leads me to the Daily Herald Hope for the Holidays campaign.
This isn't a story about us. We did our part, and we've been thrilled to do so, but this isn't a story about us. We've merely been the conduit. It's a story about the good that people do.
A few weeks ago, Arlington Heights retiree Walt Meder, one of columnist Burt Constable's readers, called and said, "The Daily Herald should sponsor a toy drive." Walt didn't just suggest it. He also dropped off a sizable check to get it started.
Here at the newspaper, the idea took hold. M. Eileen Brown, director of strategic marketing and innovation, contacted WINGS.
The Palatine-based agency provides emergency shelter, temporary housing and counseling for homeless and abused women. Often in those circumstances, the impact on the children is devastating. But it's also sometimes underappreciated. They are victims of the dysfunction in the homes. They're also affected by the emotional disruption of temporary housing.
Whatever WINGS can do to provide a sense of normalcy, it does. So that seemed like a natural place to direct toys -- and hope -- for the holidays.
Burt announced the campaign in a column on Nov. 29. I don't know what we expected. It was our first time doing this and we were putting the campaign together rather quickly. We were asking people to donate the old-fashioned way -- snail mail with checks. No credit cards. So our expectations were not high. What did we expect? I don't know, perhaps a few thousand dollars on top of Walt's initial contribution.
Well, by that first weekend, the donations were up to $10,000.
By the end of the contribution deadline last Monday, the figure stood at $28,582.25.
Far beyond our expectations.
(And checks still are coming in. Even though the deadline has passed, we'll accept late contributions. Who turns away charitable contributions? If you still want to give, send a check to WINGS/Daily Herald Hope for the Holidays, PO Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006-0280. All contributions go toward charitable service. None of it is directed toward administrative costs or fees. All of it is tax-deductible.)
All told, more than 500 children and families will be helped. From more traditional gifts like stuffed animals and books to more necessary purchases like pajamas and slippers to typical teenage gifts such as DVDs and video games, the holidays will be brighter for many in need.
By the way, people didn't just send checks. Dozens also enclosed handwritten notes.
"Thank you for taking one man's idea to make a difference and running with it," wrote Jennifer Nebel, a contributor from Arlington Heights.
"Thank you for always working to make our communities a positive environment," said a couple who signed their note simply, Jim and Darlene. "We feel like the staff are our friends and we have never met them. A great force for good."
I particularly appreciated that because it reflects what we try hard to be. But then again, as I said, this isn't a story about us. Let me share one more note:
"May this donation bring joy to someone's heart," Nancy and Pete Kalas wrote.
I'm sure it will.
In fact, it already has brought joy to mine.
Thank you all. And happy holidays.
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