After reading the story of Rosan Acosta, a homeless Arlington Heights woman whose belongings were destroyed by an arsonist this week, Daily Herald readers are stepping up to help, big time.
As soon as the story was published about how Acosta's bike and belongings were burned in an Arlington Heights parking garage Tuesday night, readers started calling, commenting and emailing. They offered her a new bike, a place to stay, a job, clothes and everything in between.
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On Wednesday afternoon, Kathy Kelly of Hoffman Estates met with Acosta to bring her a new bike and a bag of goods, including crochet materials, a book, a hair dryer, sunscreen and tissues.
"I'm a single mom and a lot of people have helped me over the years, so I wanted to do something," Kelly said.
She said she bought the Schwinn a year ago and barely rode it.
"I knew she needed it more than I did," Kelly said.
A bike is the only way Acosta has to get around Arlington Heights, and without it she was stuck walking in the heat this week.
"Oh my God, it's gorgeous," Acosta said when she saw the bike rolling up to the downtown Arlington Heights Metra station.
Acosta has been overwhelmed with offers of help and thanked Kelly with a hug and an offer to do something nice for her when she gets back on her feet.
Elizabeth Gasparovic, who works with the nonprofit Arlington Cares and is a member at Orchard Evangelical Free Church, also has reached out to help Acosta.
Gasparovic was in the park just after the explosion Tuesday night and went up to talk to Acosta. She told her to come by the church the next day where she got her some new clothes and helped put her in touch with help from the village's human services department.
Acosta also plans to work with the local Salvation Army to improve her resume and work toward getting a job.
Arlington Heights police said Thursday night they have one suspect they will try to interview for the fire that destroyed Acosta's belongings. The fire department has not determined the cause or origin, intentional or otherwise, police said. No accelerant or incendiary device was found by the bomb squad or the fire department at the scene.
There hasn't been a clearinghouse set up for Acosta, so the calls, Facebook posts and comments from readers -- more than 100 at least -- have been going to the village, the library, the Daily Herald, local shelters and churches.
"I just didn't think the feedback would be that great, but people are really bending over backward. It means so much," Acosta said, who suggested people use her Facebook page if they want to reach her.
While readers were particularly touched by Acosta's story, she is just one of many homeless people in the Northwest suburbs.
"We've had a lot of people coming in and calling with an interest in the plight of homelessness in the suburbs, realizing it's a problem they didn't quite see," said Corey Keller, event coordinator at Journeys the Road Home, in Palatine.
Journeys won't confirm or deny, because of confidentiality reasons, that any particular client is at the shelter, but Keller said donations of any kind are always welcome.
During the winter there are more shelters open for homeless people to sleep, but during the summer the homeless often sleep in parks or forest preserves.
Good items to donate during the hot months are tents, sleeping bags, bug spray, sunscreen, socks, underwear, sunglasses and travel-size personal hygiene items.
Gasparovic said she's also happy to see so much goodwill from suburban residents and hopes it will translate into donations for other people in need in the area.
"There's a lot of people who want to help, but they don't know how," she said.
Hope: 'It means so much'