The 20th annual Crystal Ball will provide the backdrop to honor four outstanding Community Stars of Northwest Mississippi. These regional Community Stars will be honored along with the gala’s Stars of Hope, C Spire founders, brothers Wade and Jimmy Creekmore. The Crystal Ball helps over 800 nonprofit organizations through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, with an emphasis on education and health for children and youth.
John David Wheeler of Southaven will be honored as Dan Maddox Man of the Year. He is co-owner of Memphis Barbecue Co. in Horn Lake and winner of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
Although John is an alderman for the City of Southaven, he has truly distinguished himself by using his unique talents to benefit thousands of people in need throughout the country.
In 2013, John joined Operation BBQ Relief, a nonprofit organization formed after a catastrophic tornado hit Joplin, Missouri. Since then, John has been on the front lines of Operation BBQ Relief.
In 2019, Wheeler and Operation BBQ Relief set up in Florida to aid hurricane victims and oversaw 88,515 meals flown over to the Grand Bahamas where they served their three-millionth meal. He has become a role model and mentor, always finding joy in putting a smile on another’s face and putting warm food on their plate.
Judy Bland of Marks has been selected as Margaret Maddox Woman of the Year. She is one of the earliest volunteers of the Marks Project, a program dedicated to growing Quitman County by empowering its residents with the resources, education, and skills they need to thrive.
Judy combines her deep understanding of the community as well as her untiring work ethic to help the organization and its focus on education, workforce training, and community well-being. She has been instrumental in adapting several programs in Marks, including Jumpstart, a national early childhood educational program dedicated to helping preschoolers develop language and literacy skills that will prepare them for school; ACT Boot Camp, a test preparation program for high school students; and the Quitman County Career Empowerment Center, which offers free and low-cost job training to county residents.
Judy is also a retired Quitman County secondary English teacher.
The Community Star Man and Woman of the Year carry the names of Dan and Margaret Maddox in tribute to their legacy of service and philanthropy. Together, Margaret and Dan Maddox made a formidable team who devoted their lives to entrepreneurship, adventure, and service. Dan and Margaret died as they lived: pursuing with excellence their great passions.
Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center is this year’s Nonprofit of the Year. It helps to make DeSoto and Tate counties safe for children by responding to child abuse with advocacy, treatment, education, and prevention.
Healing Hearts provides advocacy services to victims of child abuse from start to finish, which ensures that a child only tells their traumatic experience of abuse one time. It also operates well-organized facilities in DeSoto and Tate counties stocked with clothing, diapers, and baby items needed for children removed from homes or found in emergency situations. Healing Hearts also provides Christmas for foster children by collecting donated toys, bikes, coats, and clothing.
Chick-fil-A will be honored as Business of the Year. It has a well-deserved reputation for service and has shown its commitment to its communities in many ways.
A significant contribution mad by Chick-fil-A is its Leadership Academies in high schools across Northwest Mississippi. The program aims to promote leadership skills and opportunities to high school students in efforts to bring up more leaders to impact communities. Chick-fil-A gets very little out of the program but offers a lot to invest in youth.
With stores in Southaven and Olive Branch, Chick-fil-A provides money and materials for the program’s curriculum as well as free food for each kickoff event when a new program starts. The Leadership Academy program is currently being used in DeSoto Central, Hernando, Lake Cormorant, Olive Branch, Lewisburg, Northpoint Christian School, and others.
A limited number of tickets for the Jan. 18 Crystal Ball gala are available by calling the Community Foundation at 662.449.5002.
The Community Foundation manages over 200 donor-established funds and has distributed $25 million to support more than 800 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 19 volunteer civic leaders governs the Community Foundation. Learn more about the Community Foundation at www.cfnm.org or call 662-449-5002.