In the aftermath of the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, The Rev. Dr. Robert Nelson Back, rector of Saint Luke’s Parish in Darien, Connecticut, who attended seminary with Dr. King, convened with Jean Sherman, a dedicated parish member. Their shared concern for the pressing civil rights issues of the time led them to contemplate how residents of Darien could actively respond to this pivotal moment in history.
In a letter dated April 18, 1968, Dr. Back officially announced the establishment of Person to Person and appointed Jean Sherman as its inaugural director. Endorsed by the Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence Committee of the Vestry, this initiative aimed at fostering extensive community engagement to address the needs arising from poverty and injustice, echoing the ideals championed by Dr. King.
The concept behind Person to Person was a strong commitment without limits. It sought to leverage its resources to aid those in need while also educating the community about the profound impacts of poverty and injustice. The foundational principles included fostering open and sustained dialogue, leading to reconciliation and justice. Volunteers interviewed social workers, counselors, clergy, and community leaders to determine the agencies, programs, and projects in the Stamford-Darien-Norwalk area that relied on volunteer assistance, the specific aid required and the underlying factors contributing to areas of concern.
The volunteers identified needs ranging from tutoring and day care to summer day camps, recreation for the elderly, and the new housing. Concurrently, volunteers were entrusted with the task of educating the people of Darien about the critical issues and opportunities at hand. From the start, Person to Person followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and the Poor People’s Campaign principles, aiming to address urgent needs and promote a greater awareness of social justice in the community.