A lot can happen when you turn 25. Your level of responsibility might start rising at home and at work, intensifying the level of “adulting” you have to do. You can rent vehicles less expensively, enabling you to travel to see friends or see the world more frequently. You also begin to notice that many of those same friends are doing many of the amazing things they dreamed about when you were younger – and you are right there to celebrate their successes.
Turning 25 also tends to make you reflect. You’re halfway to 50, a quarter of the way 100, and a long way from where you began. When I turned 25, I was wrapping up a graduate degree, planning a wedding and starting a new job. At the quarter-century mark, my life seemed mostly about possibilities.
This year, the Community Foundation for Mississippi turns 25. As we have approached this milestone, we’ve celebrated how much we’ve accomplished – from our humble beginnings to the $50 million mark, none of which could have happened without the vision and support of dedicated donors, funders, board members, volunteers, and partners. When a visionary group of Leadership Jackson alumni laid the groundwork for what would become the Community Foundation for Mississippi we were the last major southern city without a community foundation. With four funds totaling $250,000, the work to help communities imagine a bold, bright future began.
Our first name was the Greater Jackson Foundation, and home was in an upstairs office in Highland Village. The first executive director was little more than a paid volunteer, and the new board of trustees had to plot a course for success. We invested in our backyard, nurturing the philanthropic seeds planted by a wide range of concerned and dedicated Mississippians in Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties. Those initial seeds yielded great returns in the early years, providing funding for dozens of programs that supported education, arts and culture, and other vital programs throughout the Metro Jackson area. By the time we were ten, it was time for a newer name – The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson – and a move to new space downtown in the Bancorp South building. (Although, I’m old enough to remember when it was the First Federal Savings and Loan building, and am still convinced the ghost of Tom Scott haunts the elevators.)
Over these 25 years, we have grown to become a trusted vehicle for individuals, families, and groups of givers to invest in the change they are committed to seeing happen in their communities. Through these investments, we have been able to help foster amazing relationships and partnerships between donors, nonprofit organizations, funders, and several other key groups that expanded our idea of what’s possible in Mississippi. Early funds established by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Foundation and the Magnolia Speech School Foundation helped us cement our reputation as an expert in nonprofit endowments. Visionary donors like Cecil and Nancy Brown, Jane and Wood Hiatt, Tim and Jean Medley and Wirt and Mary Yerger taught us how to achieve true community philanthropy. Early support from the Phil Hardin Foundation made it possible for us to establish funds to support education efforts of many types. More recently, work with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has helped us stretch and grow into new areas of work.
We’ve had the privilege of working with generations of donors determined to keep a legacy of community involvement and investment alive. We have seen funds turn into organizations and foundations doing work that positively influences health and well-being across the state. We have cheered board members and staff who have been recognized for their achievements and accomplishments in business, philanthropy, and volunteering. And even today, we are proud to help so many worthwhile causes get started or grow, by helping them make sound and sustainable investments in the communities they care so deeply about.
The next twelve months will be a season of reflection, celebration and imagination, and we invite you to be part of the story of our quarter-century of success, a story of investing in ideas and possibilities, a story of imagining a bright future – For Good. For Mississippi. Forever.