Thalia Mara Hall Renovations Fund

Jackson’s city auditorium has a history of brilliant and breathtaking performances spanning more than five decades. But Thalia Mara Hall, the home of the USA International Ballet Competition, among many other organizations, got a little down-at-the-heels. A facelift to make sure the space where artistic stars shine was just as stellar lead a group of private and public sector stakeholders to launch an ambitious renovation project.

Dedicated in 1968, the auditorium was a community effort to replace a former armory which then served as the performance hall for the capital city. Modeled on mid-century design principles, the building became a beacon of civic pride and community leadership. Named for the ambassador of ballet in Mississippi, Thalia Mara, the hall saw near-continuous use, despite aging city infrastructure, changing patron habits, budget concerns and expectations for amenities. By 2013, something needed to be done. That fall, a group of private and public sector stakeholders formed Friends of Thalia Mara Hall to raise funds to pay for much-needed renovations to this majestic structure. The quadrennial USA International Ballet Competition was scheduled for the following June, so not just money was the challenge. The timeline was just as much a factor in whether the renovation could be completed. The Friends of Thalia Mara established a fund at the Community Foundation, and within months, the group raised $1.5 million in private contributions. This impressive pool of charitable investments was added to a $3 million investment from the City of Jackson and $1 million in state bond funds to support the first phase of the renovation project – which was indeed complete just in time for the June 2014 USA IBC.

Using the Community Foundation saved time, as the only other option would have been for the Friends of Thalia Mara Hall to become a nonprofit organization – something which takes a lot of time and money, and was unnecessary for a project with an end date. It gave donors a sense of security that their donations would be spent only for the designated project, along with their tax deduction. Operating the “back office” through the Community Foundation also meant fundraising efforts could be concentrated on completing the project – not on overhead.

Best of all, this successful public-private partnership allows a jewel in the City’s cultural crown to glimmer again

To learn more about seating your project at the Community Foundation, contact us at

Mississippi Book Festival

Two years of planning launched an annual literary affair celebrating Mississippi’s storied legacy of literature and providing a stage for emerging and established writers.

To bring the Mississippi Book Festival “off the pages” to life, a group of dedicated book lovers approached the Community Foundation to manage the money – to serve as the fiscal backbone for the event. The thought was, a one-day-a-year event doesn’t need to be a nonprofit organization – it just needs a way to raise and spend charitable dollars to make something wonderful happen for the community.

That’s our sweet spot. The Community Foundation has helped take the festival from start-up to a major tourist attraction for a legion of book lovers. The festival organizers can focus their efforts on coordinating and presenting the event, instead of trying to figure out how to do the “back office” work. And, as part of its ongoing partnership with the Mississippi Book Festival, the Community Foundation processes and acknowledges all contributions, and handles the books, bill-paying, and other financial operations.

To learn more about how the Community Foundation can provide similar support for your project or initiative, contact us at

Peggy Huff Harris Fund

A Vision for Legacy
Peggy Huff Harris had a legacy to leave. She came to the Community Foundation to help write her last chapter.

Left an inheritance by her son, Peggy wanted to create a lasting memorial to him while helping the nonprofits she admired most. From filling pantries to fulfilling the promise of public broadcasting, her bequest to start an endowed fund keeps supporting the charities close to her heart and tells an ongoing story of her family. The Thomas G. Ramey and Peggy Huff Harris Fund supports seven charitable organizations every year, and will continue to, for good. Forever. It’s inspiring to see how ordinary people can create a transformational gift – not because it’s large, but because it’s planned. It’s thoughtful. It’s visionary. What’s the vision you have for your last chapter? Let us help you write it.

View our Ways to Give page to get started. Or, reach us at

Jackson Zoological Park

For nearly a century, the Jackson Zoo has been an expansive outdoor classroom for children and a fascinating family experience for Mississippians and visitors. Planning for the next hundred years, Zoo officials started endowment and reserve funds at the Community Foundation.

As Paul Simon sang, the monkeys stand for honesty, and this is the truth: successful investing in the future isn’t just a ‘bragging right,’ it’s a necessity. Your organization’s future may depend on it. So when three major donors created a windfall for the Jackson Zoo, it smartly seeded an endowment fund and a reserve fund, which will let others contribute gifts to this treasured attraction that has touched the lives of thousands of Mississippians.

Endowments, like the one started by the Zoo, create a long-term funding source for nonprofits. Donations are invested over time, with 5% of the fund balance able to provide an annual revenue source for your organization. Reserve funds often act like a higher-yield savings account, and can help create an opportunity, cover critical needs not included in a budget, or fund emergencies that come up from time to time.

The Community Foundation takes on the investing responsibility and oversight, so your nonprofit organization and your board of directors can do what you do best: raise money and run the organization. Pooled funds, like those at the Community Foundation, also can provide better returns and stronger investment options than small nonprofits might rate on their own in the marketplace. We’re experts at receiving strange things, indeed. Property? Artwork? Uncle Hubert’s mineral rights? We can figure out a way to convert a gift to benefit your fund forever. What is your vision for the future? Together we can develop a way to make it happen.

To learn more about how you start an endowment or operating reserve fund, email

Revitalize Jackson Fund

From Healing Bodies to Healing Neighborhoods
One retired physician has committed to helping his town eradicate blight by cleaning lots, clearing debris and creating green spaces and safe places for the community.

Jim Johnston is on a mission. “Blight is a cancer,” Johnston says. “It spreads, and eventually it will kill a community. It starts on a street, perhaps. Then spreads to a neighborhood. Eventually blight will kill our city.”

A retired doctor, Jim approached treating this urban cancer the same way he approached a diseased patient: evaluate the symptoms, determine the cause of the illness, research and apply a treatment with a cure as the ultimate goal.

He has partnered with other concerned citizens to cure the problem. His keen analytical skills and diagnostic training were important to finding a solution, but the real key was listening to neighbors and making them partners in the success. Early on, Jim came to the Community Foundation for help. Through the Revitalize Jackson Fund, he focused his fundraising efforts and project plans to root out and destroy dilapidated, abandoned and trash-filled properties. He convinced others to contribute money to realize the dream of a revitalized capital city. So much so, the nonprofit Revitalize Mississippi took shape and is now working across the state to identify vacant lots and houses and put them into the hands of neighbor groups to maintain and redevelop.

That’s the short-term treatment. The long-term cure requires something more. “Blight eradication is the essential first step,” he says. “But real revitalization requires the active participation of the residents for it to work.”

To that end, a group of like-minded people created the Action for Jackson Fund and is securing financial resources to create a Community Land Trust (CLT). This model will let neighbor groups take ownership of and rehabilitate these properties. “We need partnerships with the city, the county, the state, neighborhood groups and the private sector to make this work,” Johnston says.

The Rosemont neighborhood is first up. Once a blighted area with rampant crime, it is now a testament to the power of neighbors committed to turning things around. “There is so much potential here,” he says. “The neighborhood has already done the hard part – addressed crime, cleaned streets and lots. They are excited about using the Community Land Trust model to truly revitalize the area.”

Long-term community change means working together to diagnose the problem, research and begin a treatment and ultimately find a cure. You might even say it takes a village. What does your village need to cure? What can your community become? Imagine the future you want to see. We can help.

To learn more about how the Community Foundation can help you imagine ways improve your community, email