Everyone wishes to have a brightly-colored box underneath the Christmas tree this Yuletide season, and at least one Mid-South nonprofit makes sure that boxes destined to brighten someone’s day come throughout the year.

The Box Project, a Hernando-based organization with roots that reach back more than five decades, is seeking a Winter Holiday sponsor for matching families. The deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1.

The organization, located at 315 Losher Street on the historic Square in Hernando, matches families from 41 states in the U.S., with families living in rural poverty in counties that are classified as rural in the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi’s 11-county service area.

Those individuals wishing to take advantage of tax incentives by giving to charity and claiming that gift on their tax returns by becoming a holiday sponsor will be given the proper forms and paperwork.

Box Project officials say that the recent “Giving Tuesday,” held this past Tuesday, is the perfect time and venue of which to donate a gift sponsorship toward the Box Project.

More than 55 years ago, the offshoot of a conversation that Virginia Naeve had with Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., back in 1962 has helped make a difference for thousands living in rural poverty.

Since the very first items were collected in Virginia Naeve’s living room and distributed to families living in the Mississippi Delta, the Box Project has continued to match families across the United States with families living in rural poverty.

Donna Goldman, Director of the Box Project, said being with the Box Project has given her a brand new perspective.

“It has opened my eyes to the poverty which is right here in our community,” Goldman said. “My hopes for people participating in the Box Project is that they will see how lives can be transformed. There are families living in generational poverty who are introduced to a higher quality of life by interacting with a sponsor. It is limitless what they can achieve through mentorship with a sponsor and through the utilization of education and resources. Even learning a new skill is an education unto itself.”

With a generous donation from a local church, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi was able to start an endowment to continue and strengthen the mission of the Box Project, which is to encourage and enrich the lives of families and individuals living in rural poverty by establishing meaningful relationships, promoting education, and offering material aid.

Goldman said that she recently received a note from a doctor in Minnesota who has been a sponsor for more than 45 years. The doctor and his wife are still in contact with the grown children of the original Box Project family, with whom they began a relationship in the early 1970s.

Goldman said the doctor, now in his 80s, can no longer continue his sponsorship of the family due to health issues.

The doctor is reaching out to individuals across the Mid-South or around the nation to step in and offer this couple friendship, encouragement and basic items needed for living.

“Most of the applicants to the Box Project are young, single mothers or grandparents raising grandchildren, and we do occasionally have applicants who are on disability and need not only material aid but also companionship with someone who can encourage them while they cope with serious medical conditions,” Goldman said.

As a special footnote to the Minnesota doctor’s story, one of the siblings of the Delta family he and his wife had helped over the years robbed a taxicab in a desperate move to lift himself out of poverty.

They had moved to Florida with hopes of “earning their fortune,” according to the doctor.

But the misstep in the young men’s lives did not deter the doctor from continuing to care and make an impact upon their lives.

Due to the doctor’s intervention, the young man was released from prison but stepped back out into the world with no job and little money.

The doctor actually flew to Florida to help find a job for the young man and found an apartment for him to live in.

The doctor put food in the refrigerator, taught him how to budget his money.

The young man learned how to wait tables, hold a steady job, and is now married with a child.

“Because of this doctor and his wife who were caring sponsors and took the time to mentor a young man, there is now a productive citizen in a community in Florida,” Goldman said.

The doctor was in keeping with the spirit and intent of Naeve, who began the Box Project in 1968. The Box Project headquarters was in Connecticut for many years before moving to Florida and then Hernando.

There are several ways to give to the Box Project. Gifts to the Box Project are permanent, self-sustaining sources of funding Endowment assets are invested to earn a market rate of return while keeping the principal intact to help sustain the future of the Box Project. Gifts of cash are also another popular way in which to give. However, donors may receive tax savings with other non-traditional giving such as stocks and binds, mutual funds and other assets. Donors are urged to check with their financial advisors and then get in touch with the Community Foundation.

For mail inquiries contact the Box Project,C/O the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, 315 Losher St. Suite 100, Hernando, MS 38632 or call 1-662-449-5002 or email director@boxproject.org

Written by Robert Lee Long, Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.