Monday, August 27, 2012

The Box Project celebrates its 50th year of personal outreach to those in rural poverty all across the U.S.

Marilyn Kriegl of San Francisco, right,
and Willie Mae Bush of Mississippi,
paired through Box Project (BP photo)
The Box Project, a grass-roots program of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, still holds promise for relieving rural poverty as it marks its 50th year. The project, writes Henry Bailey of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, was "designed to link needy families in the Delta and other areas with sponsors across the country." Originally focused on the Mississippi Delta, and based in Hernando, Miss., the Box Project has expanded its outreach efforts to include rural areas in Maine, Appalachia including West Virginia, Kentucky and the Native American reservations of South Dakota.

An example of its work: Tim Holston grew up among the dirt roads around Itta Bena, Miss., and faced bleak prospects. But as a youth, he received the first two books he ever owned from his Box Project sponsor, Marcia Cook of Concord, Mass. -- and now he's completing a doctorate in computer science. His sister has already graduated.

The Box Project began with an airline conversation, and in the living room of a woman from New Hampshire. On a 1962 flight, Virginia Naeve met Coretta Scott King, the wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Bailey writes, "The conversation turned to conditions in rural Mississippi and what might be done to help families in the Mississippi Delta, one of the worst areas of rural poverty in America. 'Mrs. King gave Virginia the name of a specific family she knew needed help,' Tom Pittman, president of the Community Foundation, said. 'Virginia returned home and began writing letters and sending boxes of clothing, food and supplies that the family desperately needed.' Soon, neighbors heard of her actions and were giving her boxes to send to Mississippi too. Other families in poverty were added to the mailing list, and things kept growing until Naeve got the simple idea of matching up sponsor families directly, and the Box Project was launched. Since that modest start, it's grown to a network that has directly helped more than 15,000 recipient families." (Read more)

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