APRIL 15, 1950
NEW YORK, Friday—I had a very interesting visit Wednesday evening at dinner with a man who has made himself well-known in Rockland County, New York.
He told me he comes from working people, knows what a hard day's work means and therefore has no trouble with his own workers now that he has his own business, which is building roads. He is responsible for a unique country project in Rockland. This is an organized self-help welfare group that is willing and able to meet certain emergencies without waiting for state help. All the workers are volunteers.
A veteran who was building his own house not long ago was stricken with polio, and his neighbors volunteered to finish his house for him. This is the spirit of the man who founded the organization and it has spread through the county. He told me nothing that has been accomplished could have been done unless they had good people in the county who wanted to help their neighbors.
Now he is anxious to work in a wider field. He has an idea which he thinks may be helpful in our relationships with the Soviet Union because it would necessitate certain definite commitments for peace rather than mere protestations in words. I agreed to pass his idea along even though I don't know whether anything can come of it.
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Before I went out to Lake Success yesterday morning I was visited by a quite remarkable young minister. His name is Rev. Richard C. Smith and many years ago I met him in Scotts Run, West Virginia. He calls the house in which he works "The Shack," but officially it is known as "The Mountaineer Mining Mission".
When I last visited there the house needed expanding, as it was bursting with its many activities. These have grown even more, and one of the things that has been added is a swimming pool. This has done more than provide recreation for the community. Considering the fact that the unions and the mine owners were contributing most of the money and that the Pursglove mining company had given the piece of land for the pool, everyone had a right to plan for its use. Belonging to the unions were Negroes and whites and so the use of the pool was arranged to satisfy everyone. The majority of the people are white; therefore, three days a week the pool is used by the white population, two days by Negroes, and one day it is used in common. The lifeguards include members of both races and no trouble has resulted.
Here is a lesson in better human relations as well as in healthful recreation.
Mr. Smith runs camps in summer and gets the cooperation of college students to help with much of the work. Gradually a staff is being built up which now reaches out and works in many of the valleys and along many of the runs that have had so little church influence or healthy recreation for young or old.
Mr. Smith has stayed on his difficult job and has drawn others to work with him. He seems very practical and often starts a project by actually going to work on it himself. Here again, as in Rockland County, N.Y., it is the spirit of cooperation that has done the job.
The church in the West Virginia area may have started it, but the founding group has enlisted to work with them the County Health and Education Officers, the workers from the Department of Public Assistance and the coal company officials and union members, as well as the nearby university. In fact, everyone in the area who has realized the need is willing to work to better the conditions of life.