Operation Shoestring was born during the civil rights era as a positive response to a tragic situation and has touched the lives of children and families on Bailey Avenue for over 40 years.
Children today play on a playground behind the Operation Shoestring headquarters on Bailey Avenue a couple of blocks south of the Jackson Medical Mall as a direct result of the response of this neighborhood to the wounding of James Meredith during his march against fear in 1966.
Instead of more visible retaliations to that act of violence, this neighborhood distilled its greatest desires down to one simple request.
"The biggest immediate thing that the folks in the neighborhood wanted was to create a safe place for kids to play," said Robert Langford, Operation Shoestring Executive Director.
From that, Operation Shoestring was born in the basement of Wells United Methodist Church in 1968 and has not only given children a safe place to play since then, but has adopted the whole neighborhood and done positive things to try to make life better, but always centered on the children.
"The focus has always been I think in a very real sense on keeping that-which-is-good-for-a-child at the center of all that we do," said Langford.
Robert Langford has been with Operation Shoestring for 18 years. The organization has gone way beyond a safe playground, to an afterschool and summer program with tutors and teachers to help these students achieve and excel in their schoolwork.
The biggest economic boost Mississippi could give itself is to see to it that our children get an adequate education so they can compete in a global economy.
"By teaching children and inspiring families, Operation Shoestring insures we all rise together," said Langford. "Insuring that we all rise together shows that we're all in this together. What's good for kids and families here in the heart of Jackson is really good for all of us, not just in the metro area but I think throughout Mississippi. This work here that we do is really about all of us."
From a positive response to a negative situation that brought it into being, through the decades of teaching children and touching families, instilling positive values that radiate outward from its core on Bailey Avenue, Operation Shoestring has made a difference for all of us in Mississippi, and still gives kids a safe place to play.
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