Madison's own Karen Robison was recognized this month in Money Magazine's "50 States, 50 Heroes" series for her efforts to fight poverty in the Madison County community through financial education. Robison has served as the executive director of MadCAAP, a non-profit organization located in Canton, for nearly a decade.

According to Money Magazine, Robison has all the makings of a hero: work ethic, a little financial savvy and a lot of desire to help others.

"I was absolutely honored," Robison said upon receiving the award. "I was really excited that someone recognized the work we do."

Since taking the helm at MadCAAP, Robison has magnified the organization's focus on education to include courses on basic budgeting, savings plans and predatory lending. With a new 9,500 square-foot education center and help from volunteer financial advisers and credit counselors, MadCAAP has had approximately 450 families attend its educational programs in the last year.

"There's no way to put Karen into words," MadCAAP Education Director Judy Miller said. "She is tireless in her work at MadCAAP."

Miller cited people skills, foresight, planning, financial skills and motivation as just a few of the long list of things Robison has to offer. "She's an amazing conglomeration of talents and skills. Sometimes, I am just amazed at what she is able to do and the way her mind thinks."

The largest demographic served by MadCAAP is single mothers below the poverty line. Clients are given the opportunity to participate in food pantries, clothing closets and housing repair projects among others.

Robison believes that the key to reaching the impoverished community lies in education.

"We can take care of some of people's immediate needs through our food pantry and clothing closet, but education is the most important piece to getting out, and staying out, of poverty," she said. "Through that educational program, we hold classes for anybody who lives below the poverty level."

Recently, a new program entitled "Connecting the Dots" was added to the list. "It is an early childhood program to help young mothers," said Robison. Like all educational programs offered by MadCAAP, it is ongoing and allows families to return for assistance in the future.

Robison attributes her organization's success to the hard work of all involved. She and Miller are both excited about what the Money Magazine award means for their organization.

"Mississippi gets recognition for so many negative things," said Miller. "It's just so mindboggling when we are recognized across the country for something that is very positive. We know that what we do in the community is important, but it is just wonderful when you get validation from this sort of national magazine."

When the pair first joined MadCAAP, the outfit was located in a small structure with a food pantry that fed an average of 40 people a week. "Here we are now, about six or seven years later with this very nice facility," explained Miller. "Our programs are just growing by leaps and bounds."