My journey back to my home state began while working at MDC, a nonprofit organization based in Chapel Hill, N.C., that has been publishing research and developing programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and addressing structural inequity for more than 40 years. It was there that I became aware of the Foundation for the Mid South. Governor William Winter was an MDC board member, and as I got to know him, he would often suggest that the state needed more of its natives to return home. Ford Foundation program officer, Linetta Gilbert, selected MDC to be her strategic partner in developing a vision for her southern portfolio. I became her primary contact and was tasked to work with her in developing her portfolio. Of course, I was happy to focus on the south but particularly pleased that my home state was included. I was able to travel home more often to understand what was taking place while also having the added benefit of seeing family and friends, particularly my mother.
Through this work, I must admit that I began to see my home state differently. There was plenty of great work taking place and many opportunities for further growth and development for individuals and their communities. I became aware of contiguous states’ connectedness and their importance to improving outcomes for residents and communities. The regional impact of positive growth and change is more significant states work in tandem.
This was a critical perspective of the Foundation’s founding business and civic leaders. The multi-state focus was and continues to be essential for overall improvement throughout the south. Some of us live, work, and play across geographic lines. I am glad that my 98-year-old mother appreciates what the Foundation does. She once said to me, I do not know what you do, but I figured out you help people.
The Foundation has and continues to be a strong partner with nonprofits, business and civic organizations and their leaders, and residents who have a vision for a more productive south. We must be ensuring Mississippians are effectively and efficiently served. I am an avid supporter and will do all that I can to be a strong advocate for philanthropy and nonprofits being at the table representing all voices. The Foundation’s goal is to ensure that we are part of the collective, making Mississippi a great place to live, work, and play.
I was born and raised in the Delta and was taught to treat others with respect and dignity from an early age. With over ten (10) years of social services experience, I have seen first-hand the hardships that many individuals and families experience living in the Delta. I knew that the COVID-19 crisis would only intensify these challenges for our most at-risk and vulnerable residents. Additionally, as many of our nonprofit organizations relied on volunteers who were now in the “highest risk” category for COVID-19, many nonprofits were on the brink of having to close their doors. This was the landscape as I started my new job, remotely, of course, with the Community Foundation of Washington County as the new Director of the Delta Hub for Volunteers and Nonprofits in May of 2020.
Part of the Mississippi Hub Network, the Delta Volunteer Hub’s core mission is connecting local nonprofit organizations and faith-based institutions to the volunteers they need within their respective communities. Our Hub is proud to serve nine (9) Delta counties, including Bolivar, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, Washington, and Yazoo. Through the collaborations we have formed with our partner service organizations, our Hub has magnified the positive impact on our communities through active volunteerism.
We have worked to ensure our partners have the skilled volunteers they need, allowing them to expand and serve more residents in this ever-changing world. Whether recruiting volunteers to pass out emergency food boxes, desperately needed diapers or providing virtual academic tutoring, we know we have made a real difference throughout this ongoing crisis. My first ten months have been a humbling experience for me, and I look forward to the next part of my journey with the Hub!
The Alliance enters this season of reflection and gratitude, deeply appreciative of the support from our many members, supporters, and friends.
The Phil Hardin Foundation in Meridian was chartered in 1964 with the charge to “improve the education of Mississippians.” For nearly six decades, we have strived to be a catalyst for educational opportunity and community improvement in Mississippi through innovative leadership and productive partnerships.
This summer, I joined thought leaders from Mississippi and across the country in the FutureGood Studio’s futurism training program. It was transformational. This experience redefined my outlook, both professionally as a nonprofit leader and on a personal level. It fundamentally altered the way I approach work and staff engagement and envision the future for both myself and the clients we serve.