For 20 years, the annual Crystal Ball Gala has been a special event in Northwest Mississippi. The gala event, to be held this year on Saturday, Jan. 18 at the Arena in Southaven, has been the driving force that supports the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi (CFNM) as it “connects people who care with causes that matter,” as the nonprofit foundation states.
More than 1,000 community leaders annually come to enjoy great food and great music, while at the same time learning about how the Foundation and its supporters have been making a difference in the 11-county area that it represents.
The couple charged making it all happen as the co-chairs for the Crystal Ball this year are Michael and Elizabeth Bellipanni. Michael is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Northcentral Electric Power Association in Olive Branch. Elizabeth’s involvement in the community includes her work with Junior Auxiliary, where she said she has seen what CFNM has done.
“We have a service project that is funded through an anonymous donor through the Community Foundation,” Elizabeth said. “We’re able to help children in DeSoto County and this donor wanted to provide ‘wants’ that children may have for Christmas. We were able to help 70 children through this one donation.”
Michael Bellipanni said the evening will be reflective while providing a perspective of what CFNM does for the area.
“The 20th anniversary is really the overall theme of the event,” Michael Bellipanni said. “Given this great milestone, let’s let that be the theme of the evening,” with Elizabeth adding, “because it’s the 20th anniversary, we’re taking a look at where we have come from, what has been done in the past and also ramp up to a big, bright future.”
As co-chairs, the Bellipannis oversee much of the details for the evening with different committees in charge of specific areas, from decor to food and music.
“The biggest thing to me was securing the chairs over each area so they could take that area and be successful with it,” said Elizabeth. “From there, it’s just managing them and keeping in touch with them.”
“We’ve hired River City Management and Mesquite Chop House to cater this year’s event,” Michael said. “We’re also excited about the Emerald Empire Band, musicians out of Atlanta and Memphis who will provide entertainment.”
While we here see how CFNM supports causes in DeSoto County, Michael Bellipanni said he understands the importance of the Foundation to other parts of its 11-county area.
“I’m a Delta native and both of us are Delta State alumni,” he said. “This is our way to connect back to our roots and help the Foundation through this fundraiser. You see the success stories of projects funded through the Foundation throughout the Delta up into DeSoto and Marshall counties. It really does make a tangible impact.”
Among those being recognized at this year’s ball are the founders of C-Spire, brothers Jimmy and Wade Creekmore, who are this year’s Star of Hope Award winners. John David Wheeler of Southaven is the Dan Maddox Man of the Year and Judy Bland of Marks is the Margaret Maddox Woman of the Year. Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center is the Foundation’s Nonprofit of the Year and Chick-fil-A of Southaven and Olive Branch has been named the Business of the Year.
Bellipanni said a limited number of tickets at $150 each remained available for the Crystal Ball, with activities starting about 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, Jan. 18. In addition to attending the event, a live and silent auction will also assist in the fundraiser.
For more information, visit www.cfnm.org or call 662-449-5002.
Some may call it “DeSoto County’s Prom,” but the Crystal Ball is the highlight formal event of the year that supports more than 750 nonprofits and causes across the region through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.