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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It's hard to believe we are nearing 10 years since the world held its breath as a small child was pulled to safety after 58 hours in an underground well. And after baby Jessica McClure was rescued, America joined Midland, Texas, in celebrating the rescuers and those who provided the equipment, the expertise and the countless hours of effort. We celebrated the selfless acts of an entire community that pulled together for one child.

The worldwide recognition our community received was extraordinary. At the time nothing existed to officially recognize communities for achievements such as these, so our community decided to create a platform to share the recognition we had received. We asked you to help us find deserving recipients for our Midland Community Spirit Award -- and did you ever!

Hundreds of nominations poured in -- 480 the last time you helped us. We continue to be amazed and invigorated by the incredible accomplishments of wonderful people and wonderful communities who achieve so much by working together.

To date, the Midland Community Spirit Award has honored the achievements of: Sioux City, Iowa, for its compassionate community response in the wake of a tragic DC-10 crash; Yakima, Wash., for ridding neighborhoods of drugs; Bangor, Maine, for the volunteers who personally welcomed more than 63,000 Desert Storm veterans; Warren/Southern Wells School Community, Ind., who worked together over the Christmas holidays to convert a civic center into a school after their elementary school was destroyed by fire; and Petaluma, Calif., for the massive search efforts for Polly Klaas, the 12-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered, and for ongoing efforts to establish a foundation in her memory to serve other young victims.

Abby, would you once again ask your readers to nominate deserving communities for the 1997 award? The winner will be announced at a community luncheon in early October 1997. Thank you for all of your help. -- BOBBY BURNS, MAYOR, MIDLAND, TEXAS

DEAR MAYOR BURNS: I'm pleased to help. Too often our attention is focused on negative issues, and the Midland Community Spirit Award illustrates beautifully what miracles can be accomplished when caring individuals work together. Communities whose citizens have risen to the occasion when tragedy struck are eligible to throw their hats in the ring. Interested communities may receive application materials in one of three ways:

Written requests can be mailed to: Midland Community Spirit Award, P.O. Box 1890, Midland, Texas 79701; e-mail requests to:; and on-line via the Midland Reporter-Telegram home page:

DEAR ABBY: Harry C. Williams Jr. of Nashville, Tenn., is right to be concerned about shaking hands with hospital patients. Some years ago as a journalist, I was assigned at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Once I went into an area where research was in progress. As I was introduced to the doctor I was to interview, I offered to shake hands. He drew away and explained, "We don't shake hands at the CDC." -- JACK STILLMAN, JASPER, GA.

DEAR JACK: How about touching elbows?

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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