Thursday, March 1, 2007
Finding ways to give individuals the skills and tools they need to make a living and have good relationships has long been understood to be better than handouts. The effort to provide training and support is complex, because the most effective programs must recognize the varying needs of each person.
That has been the aim of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in Mississippi County and, on a broader scale, the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus, which addresses similar needs over a large geographic area that extends from Southeast Missouri to New Orleans and encompasses a large population that has much in common.
The Wesley center opened in 1992 in East Prairie, Mo., and now has a presence in Charleston, Mo., and the Charleston Housing Authority.
The effort appears to be paying dividends. Mississippi County is one of the poorest counties in the state, but there are signs of progress. The 2007 Missouri Kids Count rated Mississippi County 97th out of Missouri's 114 counties, up from 113th a few years ago.
The effort represents the work of 20 staff members at the Wesley center, led by Martha Ellen Black, who also served as the Missouri coordinator for the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus.
Giving hope to individuals who are able to turn their lives around is am ambitious task under any circumstances. The Wesley center is to be applauded for all that it does in Mississippi County, one person at a time.