When Jacob Boler Couldn’t Find a Local Nonprofit to Support Underserved Kids in His Community, He Created His Own

Jacob offers Saturday basketball training clinics, giving local kids a destination on the weekends. 'I’m also an assistant basketball coach for Philadelphia High School, which allows me to get to know kids on a different level and continue building relationships of trust. We all have a lot of fun together.'

Since 2009, Jacob Boler has single-handedly organized annual school supply drives, toy drives and fun events for kids in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi, through his nonprofit foundation, Kids Over Everything.

Sometimes, that’s meant digging into his own pockets to pay for the backpacks, notebooks and pencils that kids need. Other times, he hits the pavement to drum up donations from churches and local businesses.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure these kids have a shot at a bright future,” says Jacob, a forklift driver at our Philadelphia lumber mill. “I’ve felt so supported by Weyerhaeuser throughout this journey. Starting with the very first events I put on, I’ve had coworkers and supervisors contribute toys and school supplies and help me spread the word. It feels great to know they have my back.”

Support for Jacob and KOE comes from everywhere in the community. Jacob was nominated for Volunteer of the Year not just by one of his coworkers at our Philadelphia lumber mill, but also by six different community members.

“He rescues people by loving them,” one community member, Philip Prince, wrote in his nomination. “They know he sees them. They know he cares. They see him work. He challenges people because Jacob isn't satisfied with status quo. He provides hope and a role model. Jacob doesn't take it easy on people. He challenges them to strive for excellence.”

For his dedication to Education and Youth Development, Jacob has been named one of five winners of the 2023 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Image of a banner for the charity Jacob founded, Kids Over Everything.

'It can be a challenge to fund KOE and cover the costs associated with the events we put on,' Jacob says. 'The award money will go a long way toward helping me grow the foundation and reach more kids over the next couple years.'


Tell us a bit about your day job.

I’m a forklift driver in the mill’s shipping department. We maneuver loads of finished goods onto rail cars and flatbed trailers to be delivered to customers. This April, I’ll celebrate 11 years with the company.

What did you think when you found out about the award?

I received a text message from a coworker that just read “congratulations.” They’d seen the email announcement before I did, and I had no clue what they were talking about. I was shocked to find out! I was feeling a bit down that morning, and it was a huge pick-me-up. I couldn’t be more honored.

What motivates you to volunteer?

Philadelphia is a small community, and it just doesn’t have enough resources to give every child a solid foundation in life. I want to be a positive force for change however I can, whether by making sure kids have gifts to open on Christmas or helping them gain basic life skills. So I offer support in various ways, like basketball training that keeps them out of trouble in their free time. For many of them, even just knowing there’s an adult out there who cares about them is impactful.

What made you decide to create Kids Over Everything?

Back in 2009, I decided to organize a dance with games and a DJ over Christmas break, when a lot of kids don’t have much to do. It went really well, so the following year I decided to make it an official, long-term commitment. I came up with the name, filed the legal paperwork and started working on ways to expand. Today, I help kids from toddlerhood through the end of high school, and I look forward to doing more and more each year.

What are the community challenges you’re trying to address with this work?

Looking around my community, I saw that a lot of kids are being raised by single mothers. I knew they would really benefit from having positive male role models in their lives. Plus, when you’re a parent on a single income, it’s so hard to pay for everything growing kids need, such as clothing, school supplies and social activities.

What’s your favorite part of the work?

Seeing the kids smile and have a good time! Getting recognition from the community is just a bonus. I’ve won some community awards in recent years, and last year I got to be the Grand Marshall of our town’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. That made me really emotional. My passion for helping kids comes from the heart, and it means a lot when people recognize the hard work I put into it.

Image of Jacob and Kids Over Everything providing gifts to kids during the Christmas season.

Jacob and Kids Over Everything help make sure kids in the Philadelphia community receive gifts during the Christmas season.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to give back but doesn’t know how or where?

Pick a cause you’re really passionate about. It’s easy to volunteer short-term or organize one small event, like a school supply drive, but it’s hard to keep up your momentum over the long term. If your heart is really in the work you’re doing, you’ll be motivated to keep going, no matter what. In my case, what the kids need most is consistency, so that’s what I work toward.

What have you learned by volunteering?

The importance of taking initiative. The cause I wanted to volunteer for didn’t yet exist in my community, so I created it. I imagined people would be jumping up to help me. That didn’t always happen, so I learned to count on myself. Even if I’m the only person showing up, being there makes a difference.

What’s next in your volunteer plans for the year ahead?

I’m going to continue with my free basketball training clinics, and the school supply and toy drive. I also hope to start a new Young Boys Mentorship program in collaboration with Philadelphia High School, and eventually expand into the two other high schools in the county. Most young men in my community don’t know how to tie a tie or how to shake somebody’s hand with confidence. These are such simple things, but they can mean a lot.