The 18th Crystal Ball, a glittering affair that is the social and philanthropic highlight of the Mid-South region, will provide the backdrop to honor four outstanding Community Stars of Northwest Mississippi.

The Crystal Ball helps over 420 nonprofit organizations and causes through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, with an emphasis on education and health for children and youth.

Tickets for the January 20 gala are $150 per person and are available for purchase at 662-449-5002 or until Jan. 12 unless they sell out earlier.

These regional Community Stars will be honored along with the gala’s Star of Hope, award-winning actress Sela Ward.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in Hernando is honored as the 2017 Business of the Year. Fairway Mortgage has become a leader in the community through its service to various organizations. Branch manager Cindy Gordon led the volunteer efforts to bring the new Hernando Dog Park to the city paid for through local donations and fundraisers. The $25,000 park was opened on Oct. 20 as part of the City of Hernando’s Renasant Park and has become "a howling success."

From dogs to the arts, Fairway Mortgage’s community leadership enabled the DeSoto Arts Council to relocate to the former City Hall building through a $10,000 challenge grant to help jump-start the renovations.

Lynda Austin is the 2017 Margaret Maddox Woman of the Year. Lynda is a proven leader in the community of Walls and DeSoto County.

After her working career in Memphis, Lynda continued her volunteer work in the county she calls home. As a certified Master Gardener, Lynda works with over 50 other Master Gardeners completing landscaping and beautification projects around the county and educating with hands-on exhibits at conservation events.

In addition, she has given over 40 hours of volunteer service to her community. Lynda’s work with other organizations includes long-time board member of the Historic DeSoto County Museum, DeSoto Arts Council, Board of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, and Mid-South Fair Board.

A calling to serve led Lynda to run for Alderman in Walls. In 2012, she made history by becoming the first woman ever to serve as mayor for a town or city in DeSoto County. Lynda has lived in county for 60 years and is married to Bill Austin. They have three children and four grandchildren.

The Margaret Maddox Woman of the Year is named for an accomplished businesswoman and dedicated community volunteer. She served in leadership roles in numerous charities. She received the prestigious ‘Order of the Red Triangle' from the YMCA due to her leadership and service.

Margaret Maddox served in various leadership capacities for a host of charitable and civic organizations. In addition to her work with the YMCA, she led a $20 million campaign for Belmont University, and served on the boards of Leadership Nashville and Sarah Cannon Cancer Foundation.

The 2017 Dan Maddox Man of the Year, Jaby Denton of Marks, is developing a model for saving small rural Delta towns. Moving back to his farm in Marks, he was stirred by the needs of poor families in Quitman County and sought ways to help; thus began The Marks Project.

The project targets the education of young people beginning with pre-K through high school. The Marks Project Community Support Board was established to ensure the community shares ideas and stays updated on current efforts.

From the ‘jump start’ mentoring pre-K program and Ole Miss on-campus tutoring of high school students to a summer enrichment program for middle school students, Jaby and the board seek to make improvements in education, recreation and economic development.

Jaby provided 25 of his farm acres to local farmers to grow peas to sell. The grounds of the former Marks High School are being redeveloped to add amenities to the walking track including a community playground.

Jaby’s ideas, goals, and outreach are exceeded only by his perception, determination, and energy. Jaby is the father of two children and three grandchildren.

The award is named after Dan Maddox who began his career in the credit and finance industry. His legacy includes the donation of RCA's famous Studio B to the Country Music Foundation, creation of the Presidential Scholars Program at Belmont University, and founding of the Shikar Safari Conservation in Africa.

Dan Maddox and his beloved wife Margaret devoted their lives to entrepreneurship, adventure, and service. Their legacy lives today in the Maddox Foundation of Hernando.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi was established in 2002 with a generous grant from the Maddox Foundation.

Tri-County Workforce Alliance serving Coahoma, Bolivar and Quitman counties is honored as the 2017 Nonprofit of the Year.

Led by director Josephine Rhymes, Tri-County promotes long term economic and community development by building a competitive healthy workforce through education and job training. The Alliance has leveraged more than $1.5 million from foundations, local, state and federal government and private sector funds to serve more than 5,000 individuals classified as Future Workforce members.

The High School Mentorship Program in Health Care Professions (9th - 12th grades) and the Academy for Mathematics, Reading and Science for Potential Health Care Professionals (6th - 8th grades), provides opportunities for students to learn about the various health fields and skills necessary.

Over 200 students have graduated from high school and accumulated hours of dual enrollment in community colleges and universities based on the Registered Nurse curriculum.

“These outstanding individuals and organizations make Northwest Mississippi a better place to live,” said Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi President Tom Pittman. “We are pleased to lift them up as stars for us to appreciate and follow.”

Rev. Bartholomew Orr, Wilbert Corley, Wayne Godwin, Scott Hollis, Mat Lipscomb, Lillian Hilson, Colie Sanford, and Danny Williams represent DeSoto County on the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors.

The Community Foundation manages 235 donor-established funds and has distributed $20.1 million to support more than 420 charitable organizations and activities recommended by its donors, as well as charitable programs established by the foundation.

Established in 2002 with a generous grant from the Maddox Foundation, the Community Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

The Foundation serves Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Leflore, Marshall, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Tunica counties.

A board of 20 volunteer civic leaders governs the Community Foundation. Learn more about the Community Foundation at or call 662-449-5002.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.