(The following is a press release from The Greater PineBelt Community Foundation. For more details, visit www.PineBeltFoundation.org or call 601-583-6180.)
Hattiesburg, MS -- The Greater PineBelt Community Foundation closed out 2015 strong, disbursing over $1.9 million in grants and scholarships throughout the Pine Belt region. This is a record-setting year with the most money given out in a signal year by the PineBelt Community Foundation.
"The PineBelt Community Foundation has seen tremendous growth since its inception in 1997; we now manage close to 200 Funds that support a wide range of charitable organizations, churches and schools; these funds have been set up by donors who wish to strengthen their home town," stated Theresa Erickson, Executive Director. In addition, funds managed by the Foundation have disbursed nearly $9 million in grants since our inception in 1997."
"We have grown because donors realize that the Community Foundation is a very efficient, credible, flexible and economical vehicle to channel their charitable giving through," stated David Fortenberry, President of the Board of Directors. "In addition, professional advisors are becoming more aware of our organization and realize that this is a great vehicle for their clients to leave a lasting legacy by giving a gift that gives forever to the organization their clients are passionate about."
The grants disbursed in 2015 by the PineBelt Community Foundation were given to a wide array of causes. "The Foundation began the year with a strong response to the devastation caused by the December 2014 tornado that ripped through the heart of Columbia and in areas of Hattiesburg," added Fortenberry. "The Foundation already had in place the Pine Belt Disaster Fund, but also partnered with local Columbia leaders who created an organization called Columbia Strong. When the tornado first hit, Columbia Strong did not have a 501(c)3 status, so the PineBelt Community Foundation sponsored their fundraising efforts until they received their IRS 501(c)3 status." Both disaster funds raised over $500,000 for disaster relief efforts to help rebuild Columbia and help those affected in the Hattiesburg area.
Along with disaster relief efforts, the PineBelt Community Foundation looked to preserve the legacy of Officers Benjamin J. Deen and Liquori Tate, two Hattiesburg Police Officers who were tragically shot and killed during a traffic stop last year. "In remembrance of these two fallen heroes, the PineBelt Community Foundation created the Benjamin J. Deen and Liquori Tate Memorial Scholarship and Hardship Fund," said Wayne Landers (get approval) Chairman of the Deen / Tate Scholarship Committee. "These funds provide scholarships and help to families of full-time sworn Pine Belt law enforcement officers and their family members in cases where the officer is killed in the line of duty or sustains a career-ending permanent injury in the line of duty or while acting in an official capacity." Funds like these are endowed funds – that is, they are funds that are set up to give gifts forever in honor or in memory of loved ones.
"Another focus of the PineBelt Community Foundation is to support community enhancement projects," added Fortenberry. "That is why the foundation decided to fiscally sponsor the Lamar County Partners Fund to raise over $152,000 to build Lamar County's first playground. The playground, which recently opened, is called J's place – named after Jason Weathers who lost his life to cancer when he was only 33 years old. Te playground is adjacent to the Oak Grove Optimist Park baseball complex. Another example is the See Spot Run dog park – many local dog lovers helped raise over $100,000 to build a dog park on Pine Street and 4th Avenue near downtown Hattiesburg."
These are just a few examples of the charitable giving that the PineBelt Community Foundation did in 2015. Follows is the full list of 2015 disbursements by categories:
? Animals - $5,685
? Arts - $113,267
? Community Enhancement - $263,055
? Education (general) - $22,353
? Health - $110,995
? Human Services - $718,117
? Youth - $181,084
? Religion - $214,190
? Scholarships - $275,007
"The PineBelt Community Foundation is one of over 750 Community Foundations in the United States" added Erickson. "I know that we will continue to grow tremendously because of the leadership shown by our engaged Board of Directors – they are community leaders who truly believe in our mission which is to strengthen communities by connecting charitable minded people to causes that matter most to them."