There are thousands of non-profits working hard to fight poverty in rural communities across America. Right now there is not a national association or coalition that pulls them together and helps them organize around an assets focused and holistic approach to alleviating poverty. To build that coalition, we have divided the 338 counties of persistent rural poverty as defined by the USDA into 5 ethno-geographic regions: The Delta (97 counties), the Black Belt (80 counties), Appalachia (63 counties), Native Lands (44), and Rio Grande Valley (25 counties). We are building regional offices headed by Regional Vice Presidents that will identify every non-profit in our service counties in the regions. Once these non-profits are identified, they will be vetted through our assets philosophy and our priorities of hope. The non-profits that intersect with our ideals, and others that may grow towards our ideals, will be recruited into our coalition.

In order to recruit organizations into the coalition, we will provide resources such as a Rural Development Academy, a professional network of rural practitioners, as well as national and regional programming, e.g. workshops, conferences, youth camps, etc. Our goal is to have 1,000 organizations in rural America who are members of the coalition.

With a coalition representing such a large constituency, we will be able to engage the Federal Government as well as major foundations regarding major grants. We will expedite these large grants directly to our rural practitioners who are working at the grassroots level and increase their capacity for impact, thereby changing the landscape of rural America.


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Asset-Based Approach to Community Development
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a model of community development that seeks to identify and uplift the strengths that reside in a community instead of focusing on the needs and deficits. When communities come together to identify and build upon their strengths that relate to the four priorities of hope, doors are opened to stronger community relationships and shared priorities pave a common path toward the alleviation of endemic poverty.


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Together for Hope focuses on the 338 counties of persistent rural poverty as defined by the USDA. These counties are rural based on their population, and 20% or more of their population has lived below the federal poverty line for the past 30 years or more. When you map these counties and parishes they cluster into five ethno-geographies of persistent rural poverty: Appalachia, Black Belt, Delta, Rio Grande Valley, and Native Lands.


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We have four Priorities of Hope: Education, Health & Nutrition, Housing & Environment, and Social Enterprise. These are our four strategic priorities because they collectively embody the various issues that relate to overall poverty. Focusing on any one of these priorities is important, but to neglect any one of them creates a barrier to breaking systemic, generational poverty. These Priorities of Hope are broadly conceived as well. Education includes after-school programs to Pharmacy Tech programs and everything in between. Health & Nutrition includes summer feeding programs to SNAP benefits campaigns. Housing & Environment includes house building and repair projects to beautification programs. Social Enterprise, our newest priority, is an attempt to create local economies of scale for small towns. This includes small vegetable farms to jewelry making. Collectively, these four Priorities of Hope holistically combat poverty in all its various forms.


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We have three strategies to combat persistent rural poverty in America: Interventions, Innovations, and Advocacy. Our practitioners and organizations throughout rural America primarily focus on interventions into the cycle of poverty. Tutoring programs are an example of an intervention. Some of our practitioners and organizations look towards innovation to change the nature of systemic poverty. In these attempts, we have entrepreneurs who have created small farms to help feed our small towns in the Mississippi Delta, we have practitioners who created and sold their own hot sauce in the Louisiana Delta, and we have had practitioners create pizza ovens to fit on the back of pick-up trucks that provide lunch to field laborers in South Texas, and other entrepreneurs who drive small scale economic impact in Appalachia. Finally, we focus on advocacy. In Mississippi, we are cosponsoring a campaign to increase SNAP benefits in the state budget. In Florida, we are focused on public education reform. Advocacy represents the greatest impact that we can make from a macro perspective on poverty. Creating policies that make for a more equitable and fair system for the most vulnerable in our society is our clarion call to advocacy.



The Delta is Together for Hope’s largest region of service and includes 87 counties of persistent rural poverty across 7 states. Together for Hope Delta currently has nonprofits in the coalition that serve Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, and Sunflower counties in Mississippi; Phillips County in Arkansas, and East Carrol Parish in Louisiana. Most recently we have added an Advocacy Council that serves veterans and military families in the AR-LA-MS Delta. We serve more than 1,200 families in the MS Delta alone.

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The foundation of our work is Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), where we bring all components of the community together and focus on the gifts of the people and the local assets. Our work in the Delta also includes a blend of community development concepts with a heavy emphasis on Organizational Capacity Building. The capacity building focuses on Organizational Branding, Resource Development, Strategic Relationships, Governance & Leadership, Programming and Services to Communities. Our goal includes the utilization of local assets, empowered people, and communities that are self-sustaining.

Since March 2020, 75% of our work has shifted to the MS Delta area due to the pandemic and its impact on access to quality food sources. Our rural coalition also helps to provide food security assistance to 19 churches, 17 community organizations, and 7 small towns/communities in the state. On average, the partners in the coalition have been striving to provide food to 3,500 families monthly.


Together for Hope, Black Belt is a network of individuals and organizations in and around rural counties of persistent poverty in the Black Belt region of the U.S. that have committed to asset-based community development (ABCD) work within one or more of TFH’s four priority areas: 1) education, 2) health & nutrition, 3) housing & environment, and 4) social enterprise.

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The Black Belt Region of Together for Hope consists of rural persistent poverty counties in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. There are 80 counties of persistent rural poverty within these states. The Black Belt is the second largest region of persistent rural poverty in the United States - second only to the Delta.

The Black Belt region was formerly known as the Cotton Belt because its economy was initially based on cotton plantations, but it was later renamed the Black Belt after the rich fertile soil that runs throughout the region. The Black Belt region has historically ranked toward the bottom of American regions in terms of quality of life indicators such as high poverty rates, low to median incomes, high mortality rates and unemployment rates, and low educational levels. By focusing on abundance and gifts in our region, and avoiding “deficit thinking,” Together for Hope explores ways to create sustainable change in communities.


The goals of Together for Hope Appalachia are to transform persistent rural poverty in Appalachia through asset-based community development that prioritizes education, health & nutrition, housing & environment, and social enterprise. We have a vision for a world where all people have access to food, housing, education, healthcare, and meaningful work and income.

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Our mission is working with others to make that vision a reality, especially in the 63 counties of persistent poverty in Appalachia, with counties in Kentucky (42), West Virginia (9), Tennessee (7), Virginia (4) and Ohio (1).

Appalachia was long dominated by a single extractive industry, which did not result in development of schools, infrastructure, or economic diversity. As that industry has declined the Appalachian economy has suffered greatly.

While we intervene to repair homes, feed the hungry, work for better healthcare, innovate creative solutions, and advocate for just systems, we keep our focus on the big picture vision of poverty alleviation. We continue to go to the root of poverty, hunger, inadequate housing, education, and healthcare and ask why these inequities exist as we seek long-term sustainable solutions.

We are better when we work together, so we continue to build a coalition of organizations, churches, and individuals who share our goals, while we work to provide resources, support, and networking for existing partners.



Together for Hope Native Lands spans from the Navajo Nation in Northeast Arizona to Lakota Lands in South Dakota and is the most geographically widespread and diverse ethno-geography of persistent rural poverty in our coalition. In every county, however, we use the foundations of asset based community development to map the various strengths of the towns and work with locals to bring positive transformation to these counties. From creating an egg enterprise in South Dakota or an acorn flower business in Arizona, TFH Native Lands seeks to be an agent of transformation for the common good.