Little Rock, Ark. (KTHV) -- Over the past 25 years, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Southern Bancorp have been working together to reduce poverty in Arkansas.
Wednesday, a report explaining their progress and future plans for improving life in rural Arkansas was released.
The goal is simple.
"Access to capital, opportunities to start small businesses, and just access to rural financial development organizations," says Sherece West, president and CEO of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) and Southern Bancorp are working together to reverse poverty in Arkansas.
West says "Partners in Progress" is leading the nation with this type of community level project.
"Arkansas sets the model that if you invest in these types of financial institutions, they will be successful. But it takes time, it takes patience," West adds.
Partners in Progress is the first in a series of publications. This report in particular explains the 25 year partnership with Southern Bancorp, the nation's largest rural community development financial institution. It also explains the combined efforts in eradicating poverty in rural Arkansas.
"In 2008 alone, they did over 4,000 loans; supported low income residents with being able to purchase homes, be able to finance their children's education, be able to start small businesses," adds West.
And that, says West, is changing the statistics.
"The impact has been tremendous."
Since the 2006 opening of the Boys and Girls Club in Phillips County, there have been no teen pregnancies among its 500 members.
The county's high school graduation rate increased by 16.3 percent between 2003 and 2007. That's compared to 2% statewide.
Looking ahead, Partners in Progress has three, 20-year goals for the state. A 50 percent reduction in poverty, a 50 percent increase in high school graduates, and a 50 percent increase in employment.