Hernando, MS —The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi’s 19th annual black-tie Crystal Ball event on Jan. 19 had a record-breaking year with a sellout crowd of 1,100 attendees, 73 sponsors, and a fabulous live and silent auction.  The “Superheroes:  Use Your Powers For Good” theme created much excitement as costumed superheroes Batman, the Joker, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, Superman, etc. enjoyed interacting with the crowd.  The evening also showcased fun superhero virtual reality experiences where guests could feel what it was like to be Spiderman!  In addition, cool items were placed around the arena like the Batmobile, 10 foot superhero figures, specialty drinks like Kryptonite and The Avenger, incredible “superpower” food, and music by Fifth Kind. 

Besides the announcements of the 2018 Community Stars, one of the highlights was a $725,000 check presentation from Robin Hurdle, president of the Maddox Foundation, to Community Foundation president/CEO Tom Pittman for the final payment of a $10 million endowment match challenge.  The Maddox Foundation had made a matching endowment challenge to the Community Foundation where the Maddox Foundation would match 100 percent of endowment contributions up to $10 million. 

“It was an amazing event bringing communities together, creating synergy to enhance the quality of life in 11 counties,” said Pastor Rev. Bartholomew Orr, who is the Chairman of the Community Foundation.  “The proceeds from the event help the Community Foundation annually give $2 million in grants, help nonprofits become more sustainable, and connect donors’ with causes that matter.” 

“We cannot thank our sponsors and volunteers enough – everyone pitched in to make the 2019 Crystal Ball a huge success,” stated Co-chairs Emily and Patrick Johnson of Tunica.  “In addition, many restaurants donated meals to feed the volunteers, and numerous businesses donated items for our silent and live auctions. We are so appreciative of all the support and we were very honored to Chair the event.”  

This year the Star of Hope honoree was the renowned journalist/author and Holly Springs native Jesse Holland.  “Whenever I speak anywhere or talk to people, the first thing I tell them is that I am from Mississippi,” Holland said.  “Mississippians are people who are real, people who are generous, and who care for their neighbors.”  Holland, wrote the companion novel for last year’s top-grossing movie “The Black Panther” after learning about superheroes from reading comic books in a drug store in his native Holly Springs, Miss.  Past Star of Hope recipients include Sela Ward, Archie Manning, Morgan Freeman, Marty Stuart, Sen. Thad Cochran, B. B. King and former Gov. and Mrs. William Winter.

The event also honored local “Community Stars” which include The Dan and Margaret Maddox Man and Woman of the Year, Business of the Year, and Nonprofit of the Year.  The Community Star Man and Woman of the Year now carry the names of Dan and Margaret Maddox in tribute to their legacy of service and philanthropy. Together, Margaret and Dan Maddox made a formidable team who devoted their lives to entrepreneurship, adventure, and service.

The Nonprofit of the Year is The Palmer Home for Children, located in Hernando and Columbus.  Palmer Home provides superior care for children while introducing the love of God. The ministry began in Columbus in 1895 and expanded to DeSoto County in 2003.  Three new cottages were opened in 2017 and there are plans to construct a new Wellness Center. Last year, Palmer Home served 204 children. Through their unique Whole Child approach to care, they address the physical, spiritual, emotional and educational needs of every child. Palmer Home offers an array of immersive hands-on programs for children who otherwise could not be served. The Palmer Home also received a $5,000 grant from the Crystal Ball Co-Chairs, Emily and Patrick Johnson.  This grant will go toward the Palmer Home Endowment. 

The Business of the Year was Chawla Hotels which is the largest privately held hotel company in the Mississippi Delta (19 hotels). Brothers Dinesh and Suresh Chawla lead the company that their father established in Greenwood in 1989. They have a long history of supporting the Boys and Girls Club of the Delta, teachers and students in Leflore County, and have given thousands of dollars in scholarships. This year the company worked with Coahoma Community College to form the Chawla Hospitality Academy, a training center for employees in the hotel business.

The Woman of the Year was Becky Nowell from Cleveland.  Becky is a proven community leader who envisioned “50 Nights of Lights” for downtown Cleveland where she spearheaded efforts that raised over $450,000. She also is the Chairman of the Board for the GRAMMY Museum that has brought thousands of visitors to Cleveland and provided numerous educational opportunities. Becky is also very active in the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street and United Way community efforts. She was inducted into the Delta State University Alumnae Hall of Fame.  Becky’s husband, Billy Nowell, is the Mayor of Cleveland, and as the first lady, she often works behind the scenes on many community enhancement efforts.  They have two grown children.

The Man of the Year was Derick Biglane from Hernando.  Derick has been serving DeSoto County for over 15 years. He co-founded the Krewe of Hernando that coordinates numerous community projects. He also is the past president of Southaven Rotary Club, where he started the Crawfish Countdown fundraiser for community needs; and, in Hernando, he launched the October Brewfest fundraiser for clean water to Central American villages and for scholarships. He serves as President of the Hernando Soccer Association which raised over $75,000 to establish the Hernando Soccer Complex. He also is the Mississippi Chair of the MS River Parkway Commission, board member of First Regional Library, and DeSoto Arts Council.  Derick is married to Lisa and has two children. 

The Community Foundation manages 235 donor-established funds and has distributed $22.1 million to support more than 700 charitable organizations and activities recommended by its donors, as well as charitable programs established by the foundation.  Established in 2002 with a generous grant from the Maddox Foundation, the Community Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Foundation serves Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Leflore, Marshall, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Tunica counties.  A board of 19 volunteer civic leaders governs the Community Foundation.  Learn more about the Community Foundation at www.cfnm.org or call 662.449.5002.