An Arizona native with a knack for helping individuals and nonprofits create lasting legacies that "make a real difference in the world" has joined the staff at the Community Foundation as the umbrella organization's new Community Development Director.
Theresa J. Erickson, originally of Yuma, Ariz., brings a wealth of experience to her new position at the Community Foundation after a very successful stint at the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation in Hattiesburg, where she served as that organization's first full-time Executive Director.
"I helped it grow to become a fully-accredited Community Foundation and grew it from $1.2 million to $6 million and opened over 200 funds," said Erickson, quickly adding that she anticipates similar continued growth for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi in the years ahead.
"It was exciting work," Erickson said of the pioneering path she chartered with the Hattiesburg organization during a span of eight and a half years.
However, Erickson is most excited about the fact she will be able to work with a much larger team at the Hernando-based Community Foundation.
"I was happy to be part of a bigger team," said Erickson, adding that the dedicated staff at the Community Foundation will allow her to focus on several key areas, such as creating a "legacy society."
"It's not necessarily about a big amount of money," Erickson said. "You don't have to be wealthy."
Individuals can denote what portion of funds they wish to leave to philanthropic interests in their will.
"It can be any church, any nonprofit, any school," Erickson said.
The creation of a legacy society is in addition to the many outreach efforts and programs begun by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, under the leadership of Community Foundation President and CEO Tom Pittman.
"The vision is to continue to provide great programs and to get out and meet with donors and be more donor centric," Erickson said. "The thing that I am impressed with about Tom (Pittman) and the Community Foundation is that Tom has implemented so many programs that have helped Northwest Mississippi. What has impressed me the most is with what it (Community Foundation) is doing with helping to improve health and education. What an opportunity for me to be part of a larger team."
Erickson has always had a yearning to improve the lives of others.
After graduating from Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas, she embarked on a career in the social work field, helping to improve the lives of children and families. After attaining the title of Director of Foster Care, she pursued her education, earning a masters degree in Communication/Marketing at Texas Tech University. She moved to Hattiesburg in 1986.
Erickson worked as Business Development Officer for the Hattiesburg Clinic, the largest multi-specialty group practice in the South.
"I learned about the role of a Community Foundation when someone approached me about the Community Foundation in Hattiesburg. For me, it was more of a decision to really make a difference in the world."
Pittman said Erickson is poised to make a major impact in the lives of individuals living in the 11-county region helped by the Community Foundation.
"We're delighted to have Theresa join our Community Foundation staff," Pittman said. "She has shown great leadership, not only at the Community Foundation in Hattiesburg, but statewide with the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers in Jackson. We hope Theresa will help us develop more and better ways to help people who care — our donors."
Erickson said she looks forward to settling in her new home, with her beloved pet dogs, "Callie" and "Little Bug," both rescue animals.
"I got 'Little Bug' right after Hurricane Katrina," Erickson said. "She was a little rescue dog. I had five rescue dogs at one time. I have a passion for helping animals and women. Those are among the causes I am passionate about."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.