|Doing Good Together Newsletter|
For the past 12 years, our family has sponsored a rural Mississippi family living in poverty. Each month, we send the family a box filled with whatever they tell us they need – food, clothing, school supplies, household goods. We exchange letters and photos, and though we’ve never met, we’ve gotten to know one another. I hope the items and friendship we’ve provided have improved their lives, but I know the relationship has improved ours. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor family, read on in this edition of our newsletter. And if you do decide to take on this project, please let us know!
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
Make a Difference... The Box Project, a Florida-based nonprofit, encourages families and individuals living in rural poverty in America to become self-sufficient and overcome the cycle of poverty by offering them friendship, education, and material aid. As a sponsor, your family writes to your match family, gets to know them better, learns from them, mentors them, and provides friendship. About once a month, you send a box of food, clothing, supplies or other material aid. On average, sponsors allow about $50 per month for their match family. Some are able to do more, some less. Just let The Box Project know how large a family you can assist, and you will be matched accordingly.
Photo: Box Project Sponsor Meets Her Sister Family
Talk About It ...As children get older, they gain an increasingly sophisticated understanding of social issues such as poverty. While even preschoolers can grasp that some people don’t have enough money to buy the food and housing they need, teens can begin thinking critically about effective solutions.
The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2006 is
$20,000. More than one-third of children in the United States live in
low-income families, meaning their parents earn no more than twice that
One Sunday morning a month, Sarah Steefel and her husband, Jim Moore, arrive at Sharing and Caring Hands, a downtown Minneapolis facility for people in poverty, with children Laura and Dave, now 17 and 15, respectively. They immediately get to work preparing the day’s lunch menu—which on this day includes chili dogs, corn, fruit, milk and cookies. For 45 minutes, the family, along with four other families, cook, chop, mix and pour as they prepare for the over 200 guests (men, women and a few children) that will arrive by 11:15 am.
The Steefel-Moore family has been helping cook and serve for almost a year. There is no hint that the teens (or their parents) find the commitment burdensome. In fact, Laura believes that the benefits are enormous – and a little unexpected. She was surprised by both the diversity and the kindness of the guests, and found her interaction with them to be both personal and rewarding. “It makes me wonder about their lives, where they’ll sleep and what their stories are,” says Laura. She adds that despite their difficult circumstances, nearly all of the guests are upbeat and courteous, and they often express gratitude for both the food and the volunteers as they go through the cafeteria-style line.
Laura admits that many kids her age are much too self-focused, and she thinks spending some time volunteering can gives teens a new perspective. “When I see what other people struggle with, it makes me more grateful for what I have – a home, plenty of food and a stable family,” says Laura. Her father, Jim Moore, sees benefits as well. “Our family puts aside our differences and really comes together around this,” he says. “We all feel we’re doing a good thing.”
Photo: The Steefel-Moore family helping at Sharing and Caring Hands.
We’ve been in the news! Lately we were featured in Los Angeles Family, About Families, Money magazine, and the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, Washington. In addition, our Executive Director Jenny Friedman has an article on the well-known volunteer website, Idealist. For a look at these and other articles about family volunteering, visit our web site.