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Charles Meredith: Plenty we can do

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Dear Friends,

Good morning. In a moment, I’ll share an article Jane Grim sent me from the Wall Street Journal about a physician at the Hill School who helped to stop a measles epidemic way back in 1934. I wonder whether an idea like his could be used to find a vaccine for coronavirus?

Many of you know Jane Grim. She’s a Pennridge resident and community activist. Her sons, like our son, graduated from the Hill School in Pottstown.

But first, I hope you read the full-page message from our editor and publisher, Bridget and Joe Wingert, in last week’s Herald.

“We are a small family-run business that counts on advertising support to deliver on our mission of providing free local news to over 250,000 readers each week, and free support for countless nonprofits, schools, businesses, artists, faith communities, local sports organizations and much more,” the Wingerts’ letter began. “While many newspapers across the country have moved to a nonprofit model that relies on public support, we have never asked that from our readers.

“However, in light of the impact of this [coronavirus] crisis on our advertisers, we are doing it now. If you love the Herald and support our mission, we ask that you consider a donation to our new Herald Community Journalism Fund. Your donation will allow us to fulfill our mission as a hub for news, information, comfort and joy.

“With gratitude for your support and wishes for good health, Bridget and Joe Wingert.”

Friends, the Wingerts are doing the right thing. I only wish I had come to the same conclusion 30 years ago at the Quakertown Free Press. Alas, the only thing remaining of that old newspaper is the sign above the four columns of the Free Press building.

Mighty Betsy and I will send our check to the Herald today and hope that you do too.

MB and I knew the founder and first publisher of USA Today and served with him on the national board of newspaper publishers, way back in the 1980s. Al Neuharth understood the partnership between local newspapers and their subscribers and advertisers.

I thought of Al Neuharth as I read USA Today’s letter to its subscribers and advertisers several weeks ago. It’s similar to the letter Bridget and Joe sent last week.

“To emerge from this coronavirus epidemic with our communities strong and intact, we need to ensure that what makes them special … the coffee shop down the road, the local car dealership and our neighborhood music teachers … are able to stay afloat.

“Visit your favorite restaurant’s website and purchase gift cards for yourself and others to keep some money flowing to their bottom lines. If those restaurants are still offering takeout or delivery, make a point to order from them now, and again soon. And get gift cards for massage studios, arts and crafts store, local jungle gyms and a myriad other businesses.

“At a time when much feels out of our control, there’s plenty we can do to help our local businesses survive this,” the USA Today appeal concluded.

And now to the story about how a Hill School doctor stopped an illness cold. “Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher used serum to fight measles at the Hill School in 1934. His technique could find a use against coronavirus,” the Wall Street Journal [and later, the Philadelphia Inquirer] wrote.

“Dr. Gallagher, the staff physician at the Hill School, took a decisive step that has relevance for how the world responds to another infectious disease in 2020: the new coronavirus. He extracted serum from the blood of the initial measles patient … reasoning that it contained antibodies produced by the boy’s immune system … then infused it into the bodies of 28 other students who had not previously had the measles.

“None of them got sick!”

Stories like this make one think. Stay tuned.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith


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