Thursday, March 22, 2007
Pittman talks on importance of foundation
By SUE WATSON
Turnout for the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday was a full house, with 108 in attendance and lots of interest in the main topic, guest speaker Tom Pittman’s talk on the activities of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.
Before Pittman spoke, Greg Taylor, with luncheon sponsor Merchants and Farmers Bank, welcomed Pittman and said he hopes Marshall County will take advantage of what Pittman has to say.
“I think we are ready for it,” Taylor said.
Pittman reviewed the purpose of the foundation and cited some touching examples of how foundation grants have helped communities in the eight-county region meet some important charitable goals.
“We wanted to live in a better place but didn’t want to move,” Pittman said was the core concept that got the foundation rolling.
In 2006, the foundation had handed out just over $5 million in grants in a short four years since its inception and more than $1.5 million in the last three years.
Some notable contributions that helped get the charitable giving kicked off included a pledge from River Kings hockey player Don Parsons that went to children’s causes, a DeSoto County Endowment by Al Gillis, and a $150,000 endowment for education from actor and businessman Morgan Freeman.
Some high-profile projects the foundation helped get started include the childhood obesity prevention initiative to address nutrition, physical activity and education directed toward children ages three to 12; an early childhood resource and referral center that focuses on education of childcare workers; and the Heart’s Desire Therapeutic Riding Center in Tate County.
Reviewing some of the objectives of Marshall County’s Strategic Plan, which included a desire for a community foundation, Pittman said the county could easily do that by working with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, which helps local foundations raise money and give it away to charitable causes.
Itemized (deductions) personal giving in Marshall County is high both in the county and in Mississippi, a state that is on record as one of the most charitable in giving in the nation.
“Whenever people get ready to do something, people give money to do it,” Pittman said.
A Marshall County fund can be established in the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. The county can build its endowment fund and spend the interest.
“So, we can raise money and pick our projects and plow all of it back into the county,” he said.
The Community Foundation gives a 25 percent match to all local foundation funds.
“There’s a lot of opportunity there to build a steering committee to get a local foundation started,” Sawyer said.
In other activities during the luncheon, Marshall County Correctional Facility won the drawing for a sustaining member profile. The 150 Percent Club was established by the chamber to help keep the chamber from having to raise dues every year, according to Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the chamber.
The Methodist women prepared the meal, and proceeds from the luncheon go toward the new activity building under construction at Byhalia United Methodist Church.
Sawyer said new county maps are available at the chamber office as are copies of the new county brochure. The chamber is building a new portfolio to use to welcome people to the county. It will list businesses, schools and other places people will want to look into.
Byhalia Beautiful is accepting donations for the “Welcome to Byhalia” sign fund. This year’s Mardi Gras party raised $1,500 for the Byhalia Beautiful fund.
Some upcoming events in Byhalia include the April 25 staff appreciation luncheon, a fund-raiser for the Byhalia Garden Club and a May Day Cow chip Bingo fund-raiser. The May Day Festival, set for May 5, includes a May Pole Dance, games, music, food and cow chip bingo.
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