She's travelled the globe, cradled a sitting hen in her arms at a nationally recognized school garden and laid plenty of golden nest eggs in the coffers of community nonprofits during her 11 years as the Community Development Director for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

Tom Pittman, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, lauded Peggy Linton for her years of commitment and dedication to the community.

During a retirement ceremony at the Hernando Public Library, Pittman joked that Linton couldn't officially retire just yet — the Community Foundation's biggest fundraiser of the year is slated for this coming January.

Pittman read a proclamation in Linton's honor as friends, family and well-wishers looked on.

"Peggy Linton has worked faithfully with full dedication for the Community Foundation for the past 11 years," Pittman said, reading aloud. "(She) has led significant efforts to improve children's health throughout Northwest Mississippi by creating and coordinating the Regional Health Council and improving programs, opportunities and policies for health."

Pittman noted that Linton has managed the application process and distribution of $20 million from the Community Foundation to more than 400 charitable programs and "used her considerable skills" to "secure approximately $6 million in grants to the Community Foundation from national foundations and "worked with innumerable nonprofits and charitable individuals throughout Northwest Mississippi to improve their impact and effectiveness."

Scott Hollis of Olive Branch, immediate past chairman of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, called Linton indispensable.

"She is literally in the trenches," said Hollis. "She vets all the requests and monitors compliance on the tail end. She has been invaluable to the Community Foundation, monitoring grants that go out and funds that come in."

Lorine Cady with the House of Grace nonprofit in Southaven said she was fortunate to enlist Linton to assist with her shelter for abused and battered women once her retirement from the Foundation is complete. Cady said she has long been an admirer of Linton.

"She is the biggest diamond in the room," Cady said. "She has such a great personality and a great work ethic. She has been a true friend to the House of Grace."

P. Carson Culver with the Horn Lake Public Library said Linton is the "gold standard" for public service.

"She is a whirlwind for DeSoto County," Culver said. "The legacy she leaves is that of excellence. She will be missed personally and professionally. On the plus side, she and her husband Jimmy will be out on the dance floor at the Crystal Ball."

Former Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson said Linton's grant-acquiring prowess paid big dividends for the City of Hernando during the past two decades.

"There are 11 counties in the Community Foundation, and I can speak only for what she did for the City of Hernando. All the seeds she planted in Hernando, with the Farmers Market, the Community Garden, working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has borne fruit. It has made Hernando what it is. I can see that the seeds she planted will continue to bear fruit in other communities."

Joe Azar, Vice Chairman of the Community Foundation, said Linton truly helped people in the community connect "causes that matter" to "people who care."

"It's one thing to give money but it's another thing to know who to give it to," Azar said. "Peggy did all the work, vetted all of the organizations and most importantly, she held them all accountable. That's not an easy thing to do."

Looking back, Pittman said that Linton had been a godsend for the entire region.

"We've been blessed to have had her and work with her for the past 11 years," Pittman said. "She has spearheaded efforts, especially in childhood wellness as well as advocating for the Foundation. She has managed more than $20 million worth of grants to make them as effective as possible and worked with hundreds of nonprofits."

Jim Flanagan, President and CEO of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, said Linton was a major factor in promoting DeSoto County's growth and development during her tenure with the DeSoto Council. Linton also worked as community development director for the City of Olive Branch.

"On behalf of the DeSoto Council, we had the fortunate privilege of her working with us and providing added value to programs that are still paying dividends to DeSoto County."

"With her working with the Community Foundation, valuable dividends have been added to the community through her timeless efforts," Flanagan said. "Future generations will continue to remember the legacy she has left."

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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