TUPELO – Everybody won something at Tupelo/Lee County Community Foundation’s first ever Night For A Hand Up event Tuesday evening, where 24 local nonprofit organizations from Tupelo and Lee County gathered to compete for $25,000 in grant funding.

The event was hosted to give local nonprofit leaders a chance to raise awareness around their causes.

From medical assistance to educational preparation, “The purpose is to give a hand up to local nonprofits,” CREATE Director of Communications Albine Bennet said.

CREATE President Mike Clayborne said the event was based on a similar event hosted in Oxford for the last two years called, “A Night for Nonprofits.” 

“I went over there to observe and pick up some pointers, and learn from them what their experience had been," Clayborne said. "They changed some things from the first year to the second, but it was really intriguing to me to see the displays the organizations had, I walked around and talked to a lot of them, and heard them make their pitches."

Vice President of Finance and Administration Juanita Floyd said the grants came from CREATE’s Tupelo and Lee County community affiliate, The Community Foundation, and funding for the Foundation came from the John and Frances Marchbanks Endowment Fund, a grant fund through CREATE that is given solely to Tupelo or Lee County organizations.

“This gives an opportunity to local organizations to apply based on the Marchbanks criteria, which is fairly broad, but it helps identify some really interesting ideas out there as to how you can about ‘giving a hand up’ to someone in the community,” Clayborne said.

Each of the nonprofits were given two minutes to make their pitch to those assembled about the issues their organizations championed in Lee County.

At the event, a total of $20,000 in grants was awarded to three nonprofits, and a fourth grant was awarded to the ‘crowd favorite’, which was decided by who ticketholders voted on as their favorite nonprofit at the event.

Priority was given based on how broad a segment of the population could be helped, how much support for matching funds could be garnered, how collaborative groups were with their communities, how committed groups were financially and if groups were able to prove sustainability for their projects.

In addition, each of the 20 nonprofit that did not win a grant were still awarded $250 each, to a total of $5,000 in grants.

"Crowd Favorite" Wear It Well, a local organization that provides free makeovers to cancer survivors and women suffering from other struggles, won $2,500.

"We just want to help women look their best, even when they don't feel their best," W.I.W. Founder Katina Holland said.

Third place winner, Regional Rehabilitation Center, which provides various health services for free and helped 600 individuals in Lee County last year, won $2,500.

Regional Rehab Executive Director Robby Parman said the grant would be used to have two of the Center's therapists certified in kinesio-taping, a process that helps people in pain attain a full-range of motion.

Second place winner Tree of Life Clinic, which provides basic healthcare and dental services to those in need, won $5,000.

Tree of Life Founder Dr. Joseph Bailey said more than 90 percent of the organization's budget is spent to buy medicine for its patients, "On clinic day, it takes 35 volunteers to staff the medical and dental clinics, pharmacy and the support areas."

And first place winner Sister, S.O.A.R., received $10,000 toward its mentorship and rehabilitation efforts to empower local young women.

Clayborne said the hope is to continue hosting the event every year.

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