By Leslie Lee

—One of my biggest challenges as the founder and executive director of The Soul Box Project is how to sufficiently thank everyone involved.  I have said “thank you”  so many times I fear for its sincerity, even though my heart is in every word.

An endeavor like The Soul Box Project did not grow from a hastily published website in 2017 to a thriving national act of ARTivism in 2020 without our passionate community of people coming together, offering their time, talents and resources with generosity and commitment. Together we are visually revealing our nation’s gunfire epidemic and being an agent for change.

Someone made each and every one of the over 143,000 Soul Boxes we have collected to date. A bereaved mother may have made one Soul Box for her child, reverently embellishing her offering of remembrance. Another person may have made literally hundreds of unadorned Boxes, determined to acknowledge the number of unknown lives lost or torn apart by gunfire. How can I truly thank these people for their participation and belief in the power of art?

How can I genuinely acknowledge the generosity of a sustaining donor giving $5 a month or the philanthropy of a donor willing and able to write a check for $1,000 month after month?

How do I acknowledge the time and effort expended by the Project’s team to manage all those thousands of paper boxes and thousands of dollars? The hours spent are legion. The cost of our work has grown and the “thank yous” I extend always seem insufficient in expressing the gratitude I feel.

And then there is the challenge of thanking some people specifically, when there are so many left unacknowledged. It seems unfair. And yet, tradition does offer an appropriate opportunity when a colleague “retires.” And so I would like to thank two women who have dedicated countless hours to the advancement of The Soul Box Project, and who are now moving on to other pursuits: Nanci Tangeman, our wordsmith and communications director and Stephanie Wilson, our social media manager.

I met Nanci when members of her church asked to meet me in December 2017. The Project was barely two months old. Nanci is a professional writer, and when she offered to help craft the Soul Box message, I was thrilled. Little did either of us know what a prominent role Nanci would play in the years that followed. Not only has she provided countless words – written, discussed and rewritten to hone the Soul Box communications – she has also led ongoing Soul Box-making campaigns, shepherded exhibits and showed up for every meeting, event and team effort. As a colleague and friend, she has been ever faithful. Nothing I can say here would be sufficient thanks for the three years she freely gave to our mutual vision of offering solace to those who grieve, and making our country a safer place.

I met Stephanie at a Portlandia Club luncheon in 2018. She had introduced herself as a virtual assistant which included social media. I liked her spark and the Project had just landed a grant so we were able to offer her a job. The result has been two years of steady and exuberant commitment. With consistency and panache that was singularly Stephanie, she kept our social media platforms buzzing with information and connections. In addition, she volunteered many hours to attend meetings and events, gathering content that helped keep our daily posts current and relevant.

Both of these talented women have given so much to The Soul Box Project. We will miss their wit and wisdom. As they enter new chapters in their lives, I offer many thanks to them both.

With appreciation to all,
Leslie Lee

Founder, The Soul Box Project