Shriver's legacy of reducing poverty

January 24, 2011

Thank you for Patrick Whelan and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's deeply moving remembrance of one of Maryland's finest sons ever, Sargent Shriver ("Living the faith," Jan 23). His incredible legacy of service and selflessness includes even more than the Peace Corps, Head Start, Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents and other programs Ms. Townsend and Mr. Whelan cite.

Forty-seven years ago, Mr. Shriver also created and provided the groundwork for the Community Action Programs — agencies that work to help low-income and other vulnerable people and families attain economic security.

Mr. Shriver was one of the first national leaders to fully understand that the people and program participants who benefit from the 40-plus programs offered by Community Action needed to be at the table in terms of planning, implementing and evaluating the services and programs. Mr. Shriver's wisdom gave regular people a voice. During his tenure as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and immediately following, America experienced nearly a 50 percent reduction in poverty, the most improvement ever recorded since official data was compiled.

Today, Maryland is served by 17 Community Action agencies, part of a national network of over 1,000 agencies nationwide. During these very tough economic times, Mr. Shriver's contributions to America's well-being live on and millions of children, senior citizens, families and others have better, healthier, and more prosperous lives.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

The writer is president and CEO of the Community Action Partnership in Washington and is the former board chairman of the Maryland Rural Development Corporation, a Community Action agency based in Annapolis.

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