Oliver: Here's to another helping of community spirit

A sense of community is a powerful thing, one that can overcome the worst of disasters and enhance the heights of celebration.

It’s also something for which to be grateful in this season of giving thanks.

For me, that spirit was on full display this year in the tiny Kentucky town of West Liberty, which was devastated by a tornado in March. I am so relieved that my friends who live there survived that horrible storm.

When I visited in June, the town already had started the rebuilding process. The town even was able to hold its annual Sorghum Festival, which wound up being bigger than usual, as residents from the surrounding areas came to lend their support.

That same community spirit now is helping to rebuild the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy. Of course, the road to recovery there is just beginning.

Thankfully, we haven’t had to deal with anything so catastrophic, but the community spirit thrives right here in McHenry County in myriad ways, both small and large.

One need look no further than the efforts to overcome the loss of the Family Service and Community Mental Health Center in McHenry. The area’s remaining social service agencies are banding together to deal with an influx of Family Service’s former clients.

Those same social service agencies need our help to continue doing what they do, particularly in this time of state funding uncertainty.

Then there are the heartwarming examples of the community’s generosity.

On Monday, reporter Lawerence Synett shared the story of Presley Diakow, a 10-year-old from McHenry who took it upon himself to collect turkeys for sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes who will travel to the local VFW hall for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was quite an undertaking by someone so young, but it showed his appreciation for an event that is a reflection of our area's community spirit.

And who can forget the story of Haley Storms, who in September lost the box-seat tickets to a Cubs game that she had bought as a surprise gift for best friend.The family was overwhelmed by the number of offers Haley received to replace those tickets, from businesses as well as season ticket-holders.

The outpouring might surprise some people, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

That’s just McHenry County. We have many big hearts here.

And it’s that sense of community that will help us tackle the challenges ahead.

We've detailed the issue of bullying in our area schools, and it’s something we won’t make progress on unless we do it together.

The same goes for digging out after the Great Recession, and for finding a way to stop the growing number of suicides in the area.

At the outset, I mentioned that a sense of community also can add to celebrations. We have another chance for that, too.

Let’s root on Cary-Grove High School’s football team as it competes for the 6A state title against Crete-Monee at 1 p.m. Saturday in Champaign.

Win (another) one for the county, boys.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at

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