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First round of grants

Businesses, foundation see success

JACKSON — MMI Hotels/MMI Dining Systems of Flowood has been a part of the Mississippi business community for 47 years, managing 17 hotels across the Southeast, including both Cabot Lodge locations in Jackson, and providing food services in over 100 establishments such as the River Hills Tennis Club, Jackson Academy and the Saks Corporation cafeteria.

With such visibility, president Gaines Sturdivant said that he and chairman Earle Jones were receiving more requests for charitable support from their company than they really knew how to evaluate.

“I didn’t have time or the expertise to do that. We would have had to go and set up some sort of department almost to handle the requests,” Sturdivant said.

Both men had established named funds with the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson (CFGJ) to manage their personal charitable giving. Jones has been active in the organization, serving as a member of the board of trustees and chairing the HELP Campaign to raise $2 million to match a challenge grant from The Phil Hardin Foundation and an anonymous Jackson couple.

However, as a corporation, Sturdivant said, “For a number of years we had been trying to find a better approach to our philanthropic efforts.”

In March, the corporation made a donation to the CFGJ to set up a donor-advised fund to make grants to various worthy organizations. This particular fund will consist of an annual contribution that MMI Hotels/MMI Dining Systems will make to the foundation to be paid out in grants, said Sturdivant.

A minimum contribution of $10,000 is enough to start most types of funds, according to the foundation’s 2000 annual report; donors can establish unrestricted funds, field of interest funds, donor-advised funds, scholarship funds, designated funds or organization endowment funds.

Linda Montgomery, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, said that the advantage to companies to channel their giving through the foundation is elimination of paperwork and time invested in researching charitable organizations.

“All they have to say is that you need to call the Community Foundation because that’s where our fund is,” Montgomery noted.

In April, the foundation made grants to eight organizations out of the funds given by MMI Hotels/MMI Dining Systems:

• $1,000 to the Jackson chapter of the American Guild of Organists to assist in funding the group’s annual operations;

• $7,500 to Ballet Magnificat to mount two free Jackson performances of their new ballet “Deliver Us;”

• $3,750 to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures for their Islamic Moorish Spain exhibit, running in Jackson until Oct. 31st;

• $3,000 to Youth Leadership Jackson to fund a retreat held each year for the organization;

• $4,000 to Powers Transitional Home to supply residents with parenting teaching materials;

• $3,000 to The Gleaners for general support to their food donation programs;

• $3,500 to St. Andrew’s Middle School to provide materials and field trip opportunities for second graders at Poindexter Middle School in Jackson;

• $3,000 to Van Winkle Elementary School in Jackson for fund expenses for four teachers to attend a training conference.

Quarterly reports to donors holding donor-advised funds show how much is available for distribution — typically the foundation makes 5% of each fund’s total market value available for disbursements, said Montgomery, depending on the agreement with the donor at the time of the fund’s beginning.

Sturdivant, who along with Jones recently met with the charities’ representatives, noted that he was pleased with the first round of grants out of the MMI Hotels/MMI Dining Systems Fund because they are organizations that his company would not have donated to without the foundation’s work on their behalf.

The grants were “a wonderful validation of the foundation — these are all really good community groups — and it showed their expertise in contacting and selecting these groups,” Sturdivant said.

The foundation currently has more than $8.6 million in assets with a goal of $30 million in assets by 2004. Over the past eight years, around $2.7 million has been distributed throughout the community. Last fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, over $800,000 was awarded; beginning April 2001, grant monies awarded have already reached $700,000, with other beneficiaries being the KidZone playground in LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, 100 Black Men of Jackson and the Resource Center Network in Rankin County.

Montgomery hopes more corporations in the tri-county area will follow MMI’s lead by entrusting their corporate charity funds to the foundation.

“We believe that most of the people who give to us believe in giving. Our board is here to advise people on their grant-making decisions,” she said.

For more information on the corporate contributions program, call (601) 981-4572 or log on to greaterjacksonfoundation.com.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.


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