The Power of Museums: International Museum Day

Museums have the power to transform the world around us. As incomparable places of discovery, they teach us about our past and open our minds to new ideas — two essential steps in building a better future.

The Community Foundation for Mississippi is proud to support and partner with museums around the state in many ways. On International Museums Day, take a look at just a few museums (and their funds!) close to our hearts. Perhaps you will even get out and discover them for yourself, learning more about our great state.

Opening day at the Two Mississippi Museums. Myrlie Evers stands with a crowd clapping with the Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery in the background.
A crowd, including Myrlie Evers (center), claps during the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums. The Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery at the Museum of Mississippi History can be seen in the background.

Two Mississippi Museums: Museum of Mississippi History

The Community Foundation for Mississippi made a $750,000 contribution to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Two Mississippi Museums project. The gift, made possible by a bequest from John F. and Lucy Shackelford, sponsored the permanent exhibit gallery at the Museum of Mississippi History, now known as the Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery.

“There could be no more appropriate sponsor for the permanent exhibit gallery of the state history museum than the Community Foundation for Mississippi, and we are deeply grateful to the Shackelford family who made that gift possible,” said MDAH director Katie Blount at the time. “Both the Community Foundation and the Shackelford gift embody what the museum is all about: One Mississippi, Many Stories.”

Image of the Oaks House Museum with the Oaks House Museum sign prominently in the front.

The Oaks House Museum

Just a short drive from the Two Mississippi Museums, the Oaks House Museum is a Greek Revival-style cottage built in 1853 on four acres of land located near the center of Mississippi’s capital city. A Mississippi Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Oaks House is one of Jackson’s oldest dwellings. 

From 2018 to 2020, gifts from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi have assisted the museum with repairs to HVAC, foundation, a brick walkway and handrails. Funds have also helped the museum begin long-range planning.

Front of Smith Robertson Museum.
Smith Robertson Museum. Photo courtesy City of Jackson.

Friends of Smith Robertson Museum Fund

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity awaits you inside the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Located a stone’s throw from the State Capitol building, it’s just within walking distance of principal businesses and attractions in downtown Jackson. This fund was established to support the programs and operations of Smith Robertson Museum, a restored building housing art exhibits, photos & artifacts exploring local African-American history. Located in Jackson’s first public school building for African-Americans, this museum, named after a former slave who went on to become the first African-American alderman in Jackson, chronicles the everyday lives and culture of people of African decent living in the South during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before you head to the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, start here. You can support the fund online here.

Image of the Delta Blues Museum Blues Marker sign as people walk behind to the entrance of the Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum is also home to a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker. Photo courtesy Visit Clarksdale.

Delta Blues Museum Fund

The Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to creating a welcoming place where visitors find meaning, value and perspective by exploring the history and heritage of the unique American musical art form of the blues. Since its creation, the Delta Blues Museum has preserved, interpreted, and encouraged a deep interest in the story of the blues. Established in 1979 by the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and re-organized as a stand-alone museum in 1999, the Delta Blues Museum is the state’s oldest music museum. The Delta Blues Museum Fund at the Community Foundation helps operate the museum, keeping the story of the blues alive in the Mississippi Delta. Support the museum here.

A child sits at an interactive crane at the Mississippi Children's Museum.

Mississippi Children’s Museum Endowment Fund

At the Mississippi Children’s Museum, they take fun seriously! The mission of MCM is to create unparalleled experiences to inspire excellence and a lifelong joy of learning.

They accomplish this mission through hands-on, engaging exhibits and programs focusing on literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), and health and nutrition–the keys to helping our children mature into healthy and productive adult learners.

Their fund at the Community Foundation helps keep the museum sustainable, keeping the doors open for many years to come! Support them today with their fund here.

A young girl stands face to face with a robotic dinosaur with her arm outstretched. Children look on in the background.

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Foundation Endowment Fund

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is tucked within historic LeFleur’s Bluff State Park next to its LeFleur Museum District neighbor, the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The museum’s vast expanses of glass overlook a 300-acre natural landscape, an open-air amphitheater, and 2.5 miles of nature trails. Inside, meet over 200 living species in our 100,000-gallon aquarium network and explore 73,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits which include deer, waterfowl, fossils, and Mississippi’s endangered species!

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Foundation’s endowment fund helps ensure that Mississippians will be able to learn about the state’s natural resources for many generations. You can support their fund online here.

The Long and Winding Path to Realizing the Museum Trail

It would not be an exaggeration to call the path to realizing the Museum Trail in Jackson as long and winding. More than a decade ago, David Pharr introduced research demonstrating the health and economic impact a multi-use trail could have on Jackson and surrounding communities. The project, which according to Pharr would serve to “tie the communities together and fill in the doughnut,” brought together an unlikely coterie of champions, including elected officials with seemingly competing interests.

However, the succession of six mayors in Jackson and slow economic recovery greatly impeded the progress of the trail. Time passed, costs increased, and city officials had to be reengaged — and re-convinced — to allocate resources and offer support for the project. The community members and organizations who started this journey back in 2009, including the Jackson Heart Foundation and the leadership of Clay Hays, MD, remained undeterred during that time, working to raise the funds needed to bring the project to life.

A six-figure donation from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi was essential in filling in the funding gap needed to complete the project, because it unlocked additional funds from public and private sources. The Museum Trail officially opened in early 2021, connecting five museums and two city parks through three miles of trailway. Today, the trail stands as a testament to community, commitment, and constancy — hallmarks of the Community Foundation.

Read more from our Annual Report here.

Rick Ross Madison Avenue Upper Elementary Scholarship Fund Honors 2022 Recipients

Image of Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer.
Pictured from left to right: Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer.
The Rick Ross Madison Avenue Upper Elementary Scholarship is awarded to outstanding Madison Central High School seniors who have attended Madison County schools throughout their K-12 career, including Madison Avenue Upper Elementary.
 
Congratulations to Cooper McMillin and Camille Boles for receiving the 2022 award! The award fund was established at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to honor long-time Madison Avenue Upper Elementary principal Rick Ross by that school’s Parent Teacher Organization in 2011. Pictured from left to right are Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer during the high school’s recent Class Day.

Robert E. Luckett Scholarship Fund at CFM Recognizes 2022 Recipients

Robert E. Luckett Scholarship recipients Kaygan Harrison (left) and Destiny Lesh (right) stand with Jeanne Luckett (middle) at Richland High School Senior Awards Night.
Robert E. Luckett Scholarship recipients Kaygan Harrison (left) and Destiny Lesh (right) stand with Jeanne Luckett (middle) at Richland High School Senior Awards Night.

For Robert Luckett, education and encouraging young people was the passion of a lifetime.

“Education was always it for him,” his wife, Jeanne, recalled. “He always knew he was going to teach.”

The eighth of ten children in a Kentucky farming family, he was the first to graduate from college. A basketball scholarship to St. Leo College in Florida helped him get the first two years of college he needed before being recruited to transfer to Millsaps College.

Much of his tenure was spent as a principal – from Jim Hill High School to St. Joseph High School and for many years, Richland High School – where he touched the lives of countless students. Throughout his career, Robert was always focused on those that did not have much.

“He was all about inclusion, particularly those that had the least, helping them have opportunities,” Jeanne said. “He had a break and opportunities when he had nothing. That is what the scholarship is all about.”

In 2000, Robert was diagnosed with cancer, passing away two years later at the age of 57. Over the course of his illness, donations came in to support the family. What to do with the heartfelt gifts from his community? Jeanne and her son, Robby, decided to create a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to honor his lifelong dedication to education and children.

“Robby and I decided the best thing would be to take that money and establish a scholarship fund. We started out with just one scholarship and then the money at the Foundation grew so wonderfully.”

Why create a fund at CFM? “I loved what the Community Foundation stood for. We felt like we wanted the money to be close and local,” Jeanne said. “We didn’t want it to be with a bank. We wanted it to be some place where the money would generate some good as well.”

This year, Destiny Lesh and Kaygan Harrison heard Jeanne announce their names from the Senior Awards Night stage at Richland High School for the Robert E. Luckett Scholarship. Both graduating seniors will attend Hinds Community College in the fall. The $500 awards are based on a combination of merit, need and teacher recommendation.

When looking at the impact Luckett had on the Richland community, there’s never more than one degree of separation. Richland High School counselor Michelle Cresap, who facilitates the scholarship selection process, had Robert as her principal.

“He was an incredible person,” she said on stage before announcing the award recipients. “We all remember him.”

Thinking back to recipients over the years, Jeanne says she is so impressed by those receiving the award. “They have sent the nicest thank you notes. You cannot imagine,” she said. “I keep in touch.”

For Jeanne, the fund and award are a full circle moment each year, seeing the impact her late husband had on the community.

“He loved kids and wanted to encourage them to further their education and pursue college. Through this fund, we help them do just that.”

Community Foundation for Mississippi Hires Sophie McNeil Wolf as Director of Communications

Sophie McNeil Wolf

The Community Foundation for Mississippi (CFM) announces the hiring of Sophie McNeil Wolf as Director of Communications. Wolf will oversee content development for the non-profit organization, as well as implement an integrated communications strategy and enhance brand development.

Wolf brings more than 15 years of communications experience to CFM, and previously worked for Visit Jackson, Millsaps College, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. She was also the co-owner and editor of Find It In Fondren with her husband, Paul Wolf.

She is a content creator with skills in writing, photography, video, social media management and graphic design.

“Sophie’s skill set will enable the Community Foundation for Mississippi to accurately tell its story, and how it is positively impacting communities across Mississippi,” said Jane Alexander, President and CEO. “We want to educate and inform our stakeholders and the public of our various programs, and the meaningful change CFM is making in our state.”

Wolf earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in news/editorial from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication from the University of Mississippi.

She serves on the board for the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, Central Chapter and is a former board member of Leadership Greater Jackson.

CFM announces largest Shackelford Fund to date for Planetarium

Board members and staff of the Community Foundation For Mississippi and representatives of the City of Jackson (including Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, second from left) and the planetarium's Mike Williams (fourth from right) accept a ceremonial check on March 1, 2022 at the Jackson Planetarium.
Board members and staff of the Community Foundation For Mississippi and representatives of the City of Jackson (including Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, second from left) and the planetarium’s Mike Williams (fourth from right) accept a ceremonial check on March 1, 2022 at the Jackson Planetarium.

In March 2022, the Community Foundation for Mississippi announced the largest gift to date from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund with a gift of $1 million to The Friends of the Planetarium to support the ongoing renovation of the Planetarium. This gift also includes a quarter matching gift from former Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto.

“The Friends of the Planetarium group and its supporters have been instrumental in the development of this project, whose core commitment is delivering on our educational mission directive to students of the state of Mississippi, the City of Jackson and her visitors,” said Planetarium Director, Mike Williams. “Mississippi struggles to produce technology graduates at a rate that keeps up with the number of available STEM jobs in our great state. Mississippi aerospace and technology industries have created jobs that can start at around $70k a year, but those jobs have been difficult to fill with homegrown talent. The new planetarium will use its broad and unique platform to expand access to these opportunities in STEM, and to illuminate the path to these high-paying jobs for all Mississippians. And it’s also going to be extremely cool.”

The project is a keystone initiative of Jackson’s Bicentennial in its continuing efforts to deliver a renewed and revitalized planetarium to the capitol city, state of Mississippi and her visitors. The facility, which first opened in 1979, is the only public planetarium in the State of Mississippi.

A full reimagining of the planetarium is underway with a total redesign of every space and a brand-new atrium addition to tie it all together. The planetarium is working with exhibit designers who have created award-winning exhibits for NASA Kennedy Space Center and National Geographic museums to create a fun and interactive educational experience like none ever seen before in Mississippi, or in any other regional or national planetarium facility.

“Our goal is to share and highlight Mississippi’s rich space science history and to create pride points for Mississippians who may not know what a vital role their state has played in the development of the world’s space program,” said David Lewis, the deputy director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson. “The Community Foundation for Mississippi has long supported the capital city and state, and this gift further underscores their commitment to the success of the places and people that they serve.”

See a preview of the new Arts Center and Planetarium Atrium below, courtesy of CDFL – Architects + Engineers

Now More Than Ever

Support Mississippi Communities through a gift to the 2020 Annual Giving Campaign.

How our world has changed in 2020! We are living in real-time through a global pandemic. Our citizens face economic hardships and hunger to a degree not seen in almost nine decades, with many children not having enough to eat. Hurricanes and flooding have put pressure on already-stressed communities. Our nonprofits are overwhelmed and apprehensive about what the future brings.

One thing that hasn’t changed is your Community Foundation for Mississippi — stable, enduring, and constant, pointed toward a horizon of shared aspirations –a lighthouse guiding others through turbulent seas.

Now more than ever, we need you. Because now more than ever, Mississippi needs us. Since March 2020:

  • Our pandemic giving fund, The Mississippi Community Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund, gained the endorsement of the business, philanthropic, and state leadership as a trusted place to both collect and disburse charitable gifts. In just four months, more than $420,000 has been given to provide critically needed food and services across the entire state.
  • We, along with the other 6 community foundations, were allocated by the Mississippi Legislature on July 31, $8 million in CARES Act money, to be granted by us to nonprofits and food pantries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our share? More than $2 million. The timeframe? 3 months.
  • Our partnerships with funders like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation have continued, so starting right now, and for the next three years, we have initiatives to support education — statewide literacy, grade-level reading, teacher excellence, and strong public schools. And that’s just one example.

We need your help. Between now and the end of our year, we’ve got a $100,000 goal to reach, and your gift can get us there. Your gift means we can continue these comprehensive, coordinated approaches that make the most out of every dollar and giving opportunity.

  • Please support us with a gift to the For Mississippi campaign, annual support that keeps us a steadfast community partner connecting donors with needs.
  • Safeguard our future with a gift to the Forever Mississippi Endowment* and ensure your vibrant Community Foundation can meet whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Thank you for being for Mississippi, for good. Forever.

Jane C. Alexander
President and CEO

*Gifts to our endowment fund may qualify for Endow Mississippi state income tax credits. Interested? Visit our website, and then let’s talk.

A Good Story has to be Told: Inspiring Stories of Positive Community Change

Community Foundation Storytelling project celebrates good work in Mississippi

Every culture, every community, every person has a connection to stories. The inspiring ones, the slightly embellished ones, the reflective ones, the sorrowful ones, the ones with a happy ending – Stories are a salient and sacred part of life. 

Cherished Mississippi author, William Faulkner once said, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” 

For over 25 years, we have worked with passionate people from all parts of our community who are making a difference. These champions of the arts, historic preservation, education, social justice, and other meaningful causes each have unique and valuable stories to tell. As the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary began, a key objective was to gather stories about people who had founded, worked with, or been inspired by the work of the Foundation. We wanted to be a part of facilitating storytelling and meaning-making in our community.

This project was borne from chance conversations with stakeholders and partners to explore the more philosophical and personal reasons people give back to their communities. Less about the Foundation itself, these stories were intended to mine the deeper reaches of people’s motivations. What are their passions, and how do those passions drive the decisions they make about giving back to the community?

When we decided to take on the task of chronicling these narratives, we sought out the help of Blue Magnolia Films. The method Blue Magnolia Films forces the individual to explore and train their eyes to see differently. The person has to discipline themselves to capture moments in time, to talk, and to have a viewpoint. In other words, to take time to reflect and weave a narrative that is deeply personal and meaningful and to inspire others to do the same. 

Beginning with the stories of a developer and architect, an educator, a restaurateur, a preservationist, this project celebrated the many ways people uplift their communities. As the STORIES LEADING CHANGE project continues, the Community Foundation hopes to continue to inspire people to find their passions and harness them to create meaningful change in the places in which they live.

“We’ve taken the longstanding tradition of telling stories on the front porch and evolved it to use the 21st-century technology of smartphones. These are not historical narratives that can be archived and left in the past, but ensouling narratives about where we live, what we value and where we go from here. Each person holds a thread. When we build stories based on shared responsibility, they become pathways to guide us to a more vibrant future,” Alison Fast & Chandler Griffin, Blue Magnolia Films 

We know you will be inspired by these stories and the incredible work of these storytellers. We encourage you to capture and record your own stories to motivate future generations of Mississippians who will continue our rich tradition of service to our communities and lending neighbors a hand. 

Please like and share STORIES LEADING CHANGE on social media with the hashtag #StoriesForGood #StoriesLeadingChange.

For Good During Hard Times

Foundation supports COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in Mississippi communities

By: Theresa Erickson, vice president for philanthropy, CFM

Although many Mississippi communities have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also witnessed to the good in people. In Mississippi, we are known for our kindness—demonstrated in a warm smile or friendly wave to a stranger. Or, giving of our time and resources to help a friend, neighbor, or someone we don’t know. That’s what makes our state, our home so unique.

When the pandemic caused people to lose their jobs and families to depend on assistance from food shelters for the first time, organizations like Helping Hands Attala and Brookhaven Outreach Ministries stepped up to fill a need. The Community Foundation supported the organization’s efforts to feed the growing number of people in their community who needed help. This support was only possible because of the generous donations to the Mississippi Community Response and Recovery Fund.

Helping Hands Attala (HHA) is a nonprofit that provides both food and clothing at no cost to families in Attala County that need help. HHA also provides emergency financial assistance for utility bills, prescription medication, and other needs like gasoline for individuals who have to travel a long distance for medical care. On average, the organization served about 320 families before COVID-19. That number is now more than 800 families a month. Through the Mississippi Community Response and Recovery Fund, CFM gave the organization 100 $25 gift cards to give to the families they serve. These gift cards help Attala County community members purchase food and supplies.

Brookhaven Outreach Ministries is a food distribution center, food pantry, and thrift store. While the thrift store is not currently open, the organization is busy serving hundreds of individuals and families in the Brookhaven community. In June, it served 869 people. As a part of the work in June, CFM provided the organization with 100 $25 gift cards. These cards were given to families with the most need to purchase food and supplies. In addition to the gift cards, Brookhaven Ministries provided food such as packaged meat, milk, rice, bread, eggs, and canned foods as well as cleaning supplies.

As I travel through our 22-county service area, I see passionate volunteers and hardworking organizations who are committed to helping their neighbors during hard times. These people are creating hope and truly embody the spirit of hospitality for which our state is known. Together we are making a difference for Mississippi, and we thank you for your partnership.

If you would like more information about how you can help us support organizations like Helping Hands Attala and Brookhaven Outreach Ministries, reach out to me at

Statement on Race and Equality

Statement on Race and Equality 

In every aspect of our work, we strive to be a responsible and reliable partner to the communities we serve. When communities are thriving and flourishing, we celebrate with them. When the communities we serve are hurting and grieving, it is our responsibility and duty to stand with them, listen to them, and support efforts to heal current and past injustices. Part of healing is reckoning with what has caused the hurt, and, in the communities we serve, much of that pain has been caused by racism.

Slavery. Jim Crow laws. Whites-only signs. Restrictive covenants. Police brutality. Unequal justice. Over the years, the way the pain is inflicted has taken different forms, but the root of that pain has remained constant. If we are ever going to live up to and into the idea of community, we must recognize and repudiate racism and its legacy of poverty and lack of opportunity for too many of our Black neighbors. The perpetual pain Black Mississippians continue to endure is saddening and shameful. And it is why we can neither be silent nor still at this moment.

We believe the future for each of us is only as bright as it is for Black Mississippians. We are committed to having necessary and difficult conversations about equity and justice and long-term solutions to improve social, educational, health, and economic outcomes for Black Mississippians. We are committed to listening to and lifting up the voices of Black people in the communities, nonprofits, and organizations we support. We are committed to investing in communities that have been under-resourced and supporting Black-led initiatives, nonprofits, and organizations that have been underfunded.

Communities depend on diversity to thrive–and to heal. We recognize communities are most powerful when every individual feels welcome, every idea is respected, and every opportunity is accessible to every member of the community. We embrace the difficult conversations and challenging questions that move our communities forward. We invite people from different walks of life to build community together, seeking to learn from and rely on one another along the way.

We are For Mississippi, For Good. Forever.

Race and Equality