BILOXI, Miss. — A $1 million lead grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will help underwrite the strategic planning that will guide the long-term effort to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast counties in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
“Biloxi and Gulfport are Knight Foundation communities. We think of them as our own and when they hurt, we want to help,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation’s president and CEO. “In a crisis of this magnitude, you could go in a thousand different directions and a million people will be offering both dollars and help. The best way we can help right now is to support the efforts of Mississippians to develop a strategic plan for the revival and reimagining of their community.”
Knight Foundation’s board of trustees, meeting in Miami Monday, approved the strategic planning grant supporting rebuilding of South Mississippi. It is the second $1 million from Knight Foundation for the region since Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast three weeks ago. The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross split the Aug. 31 contribution of $1 million to address immediate recovery efforts.
Ricky Mathews, president and publisher of the Sun Herald, chairs Knight Foundation’s seven-member Biloxi Community Advisory Committee. He is one of three vice chairs of Gov. Haley Barbour’s planning council for rebuilding South Mississippi, chaired by Jim Barksdale, former chairman of the web browser Netscape. Mathews is tasked with overseeing planning for the South Mississippi coast.
Knight’s commitment to rebuilding Biloxi and Gulfport also includes the on-site participation of its program officer, Alfredo Cruz. Cruz has been assisting advisory committee chair Mathews, assessing short- and long-term needs. In addition to the post-Katrina pledges, Knight Foundation will continue to make grants meeting local needs. The foundation also has a donor-advised fund established at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
“It’s our hope that by participating in this strategic planning process, we’ll help ensure that all parts of the community are included, and that the billions of dollars needed for this effort will be channeled in accordance with a plan for the whole community,” said Ibargüen. “By continuing to make contributions at the very local level, we intend to continue to act as a local foundation.”
Other members of the Knight Biloxi Community Advisory Committee are William Davison Dennis, president of Specialty Contractor & Associates; Rebecca June Montgomery, community affairs manager of Mississippi Power Co.; Dickie Roberts, executive director of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Chevis Swetman, president and CEO of The People’s Bank; Stan Tiner, vice president and executive editor of the Sun Herald; and Roderick Walker, financial analyst with Mississippi Power Co.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of Biloxi and 25 other U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.