Finding heartwarming community stories in daily beat reporting
As a beat reporter, I'm often reminded of how important it is to be present in the communities I cover.
Sure, there are days when I spend most of my time at my desk sending emails and tracking down sources over the phone. But more often than not, the best stories come from meeting with sources, covering events and making connections in person.
If I hadn't attended a ceremony for a new Boys and Girls Club high school program center this past fall, I never would have learned about the all-inclusive Parables Community church that was in the process of relocating to West Dundee.
I got to the Boys and Girls Club event early as usual and chatted with some of the organization leaders and community stakeholders in attendance. As I was about to settle into my seat, I was approached by Pastor Aaron James of the First Congregational Church of Dundee, whose programs and initiatives had been the subject of past articles I had written.
During our brief catch-up conversation, James mentioned that he might have an interesting story idea for me: A worship ministry that started in Lombard and had recently begun holding services in his West Dundee church. What made the Parables Community so unique, he told me, was that it offered the support and environment for children and adults with special needs, as well as their families. I was immediately intrigued.
First Congregational Church didn't start the ministry, James said, but he strongly believed in its mission and wanted community members to know they had an option for an alternative worship service. He promised to email me some additional information and help connect me with the right people, which he did a few days later.
Knee-deep in another project at the time, I placed the idea on my list of stories to pursue by the end of the year. After a few months, I revisited James' email and reached out to the Parables Community pastor, Jeanne Davies, who was more than willing to set up an interview.
We met at a West Dundee coffee house, and Davies told me everything there is to know about Parables, from how it started, to how she's developed the ministry, to the challenges and rewarding moments she's experienced along the way. She followed up with submitted photos, which we ran with our story, and helped me get in touch with other Parables families, who expressed nothing but praise and appreciation for the church and its acceptance of all community members.
My story published on Christmas Eve, but my coverage of Parables might not end there. I asked Davies to keep me posted on any ministry updates, fundraising initiatives, fellowship opportunities -- more potential story ideas stemming from community connections.