Help Them To Hope Embarks on 58th Annual Campaign

Help us all to hope for a better tomorrow

         I was 16 years old when I started to work at the Waukegan News-Sun after school.  It was 1966.

Waukegan was still growing as was all of Lake County and provided many of the jobs that put food on the table. The lakefront was lined up with factories and businesses. Things looked pretty good.

Little did I know anything about poverty or misfortune.  We were poor, but we didn’t know it.  Dad worked; mom stayed home to raise their five kids. We never went hungry.

We were lucky enough to find part-time work in high school and finally contribute to the household. We were able to afford to buy better shoes, warmer jackets.

Then came the Vietnam War and so many of our young were drafted to fight halfway around the world, much like those who were called to Korea and before that, like my father, World War II.  So many folks did not come home to provide for their families. Fathers and mothers never got to see their sons and daughters who were lost in the fight to preserve our way of life.

What was that way of life? Something for all of us to ponder.

I donated my first time to a cause, Help Them To Hope, when I was 19. I was an apprenticeship in The News-Sun composing room alongside some 56 men and women, nearly all of them veterans.  I awaited the call to serve, as did my brother before me.

He came home from Vietnam and I was set to leave for ‘Nam upon his return stateside.  I knew all those pressmen in the pressroom. They, too, all veterans. They sacrificed for America and our way of life.

For me, there was the draft lottery.  My draft number did not come up and the Vietnam War ended.  I learned so much while working alongside these News-Sun folks. They were a group of Americans, with roots from all over the world.  Ethnically diverse and yet all having one very important universal characteristic: How to “pay it forward” well before the phrase became popular.

You see, in 1959, long before I was part of the newspaper’s work force, these folks decided to pay it forward back to the community that gave them a means to work and prosper. They established the Hope Fund.

Impressed with the pressmen’s efforts, the newspaper’s owners backed this “act of kindness” allowing the Hope Fund to go public via the pages of The News-Sun.  Thus, Help Them To Hope began with its first public campaign in 1959.

Since that time, we have seen war, recession, poverty and misfortune beset the innocent of the world and those right here in Lake County.  Undeterred, we continue to strive to preserve our way of life in America.

I am no longer that 19-year-old kid who witnessed the average American reach out to strangers. They gave a few bucks and gave hope to their neighbors that life can be better when someone is there to lift you up when you need a helping hand.

If you’re lucky, at 19 there is nothing that gets you down. You have so little invested at such a young age.  As the years go on, there comes the time when we all have a chance if, we dare, to see the realities of the world around us.

At 56 years old, a man is diagnosed with cancer, loses a job, loses medical insurance and had no idea what was in store for him and his family.  It was then he knew for sure why Help Them To Hope had meant so much to so many people here in Lake County over these 50-plus years.  He survived his life’s misfortune.

But there are many through no fault of their own that without Help Them To Hope could not have weathered the storm of misfortune that occurred in their lives.  The valuable lesson taught was to do what you can, always, even when you think it’s so little.

We all can stop for a moment and pick up that homeless vet, feed that child or adult that is hungry; aid the battered woman who has no safe place to go; help the teen on the street after school who can’t play an organized team sport because he or she can’t buy the uniform or shoes needed to participate; assist the child who needs a therapy session to overcome grief of the loss of a parent. Let us not forget the matter of giving to those who cannot afford the medicine they require.

I can go on and on to account for the more than $2.6 million collected since 1959 by the Hope Fund which has provided compassion to Lake County residents in need regardless of age, ethnic origin, religion or social status.

This 2017 holiday season marks the 58th Help Them To Hope campaign.  Fifty-eight years have gone by and you who are part of the Lake County community continue to remember the less fortunate in our midst.  As Americans, we continue to strive to perfect our way of life – freedom and the hope of a better tomorrow for everyone.

Since that first campaign in 1959, every penny collected through the Help Them To Hope campaign has gone right back to the community. Why? Because that is who we are, that is who you are.

We preserve our way of life at all costs because we have been blessed to be Americans.  The one constant has been your generosity in remembering loved ones through a memorial giving, paying it forward for the lesson left us by those we love.

Being an active Help Them To Hope board member, as are several former News-Sun employees and associates, we ask this time of year to think about your own act of kindness and compassion by giving this holiday season to the Help Them To Hope campaign.  We are now much older and more passionate than ever about helping those that need a helping hand.

We have survived a lot as the years have gone by and it is true when I say that it has been those friends and strangers that stood by to offer support and a kind word that can sustain us while experiencing misfortune. 

Our way of life is that of compassion, it’s our national heritage. We take care of one another because that is who we are.

Richard A. Ribando
Help Them To Hope, Inc

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