I’m a fan of Sela Ward. And I’m probably safe in saying so is the record-breaking sell-out crowd of 1,062 at the Crystal Ball, where Ward was the 2018 Star of Hope honoree.
I was hooked when Ward described me as “interesting” and “artistic” looking (I hope I’m remembering this accurately and she wasn’t talking about somebody standing behind me) when I met her with Tom Pittman, president of the Community Foundation of North Mississippi, which holds the event each year. The foundation benefits 400 nonprofits and charitable causes.
This year’s ball - the 18th annual - was held Jan. 20 at the Arena at Southaven. “Once Upon a Time” was the theme.
The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Ward, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, appeared in films, including “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Nothing in Common,” “The Fugitive” and “Gone Girl.” Her TV credits include “Sisters,” “Once and Again” and “CSI: NY.”
“I’m a daughter of Mississippi,” said Ward as she began to capture everybody’s heart. “I was born and raised here. I left to go experience a bigger world.”
But she still loves the “sounds of the cicadas, the smell of honeysuckle, sweet olive, the foods and the porch swing.”
Mississippi, she said, is “one of the most giving and philanthropic cultures in our country.”
Ward is a big part of that Mississippi philanthropy; she founded Hope Village for Children to provide a safe haven for the more than 200 neglected and abused children each year. “I want to be their voice. They don’t have a voice.”
She asked audience members to help. “You have to roll your sleeves up and get in the trenches and really try to make a difference.”
Ward urged everyone to elect legislators “who care about the plight of these children.”
And, she said, “To much is given, much is required. I’m trying to give back to the community. I can because I’m one of you.”
Ward was a bit startled when a man in the audience walked to the stage and handed her a $100 bill. She said she thought someone was trying to get her off stage - sort of like the exit music they play on awards shows when someone’s talked too long.
Ward also led the campaign to establish the $45-million Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center in Meridian.
“I am a child of Mississippi,” Ward said. “It is my heart. It is my home.”
Patrick and Emily Johnson co-chaired the Crystal Ball, which also featured silent and live auctions. Jeff Morris was auctioneer. Dinner was catered by the Landers Center. The Dantones performed.
I couldn’t find anything related to home building in the silent auction at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis Tool House Bash, held Jan. 19 at Crosstown Concourse.
I covered the event, which is presented by Valero Memphis Refinery, a few years ago and noticed an actual tool box in the auction. It was a Task Force six-drawer combination tool chest and a $100 gift card to The Home Depot.
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to help local families build and buy homes for the first time. And it supports the organization’s rehab and critical home repair program, the neighborhood revitalization program and the Aging in Place program, which helps local seniors continue to live in their homes longer, said Habitat communications coordinator Kim Morrison.
The closest I found to anything sounding like a home at this year’s fundraiser was when Larry Springfield and his band performed “Brick House.” But, of course, that’s not really about home building.
OK. There were lamps in the silent auction, which someone is going to use in their home. And party goers included people who get out there and help build those houses, whether by hammering nails or writing checks.
In addition to singing on stage, Springfield sings the praises of Habitat for Humanity, where he’s a project manager. Springfield, who said he’s “always been in construction,” said Habitat for Humanity is special to him: “Just being involved with giving back to the community and helping people build affordable homes.”
About 350 attended this year’s event, which featured a Fund-A-Need auction to raise money for the family reunion Habitat will hold next year.
Duane Spencer is Habitat for Humanity president/CEO and Bill Stemmler is board chair.
My harbingers of spring include King cake, the first baseball spring training photos, Calvary Waffle Shop and Carnival Memphis grand krewe coronations.
The kings, queens and their courts are announced at the parties, which begin in January. They continue almost until the Crown & Sceptre Ball, which usually is held the latter part of May and the beginning of June.
The Grand Krewe of Ennead held its coronation ceremony Jan. 19 at the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis. David Kelley is king and Jean Oliver is queen. Marty Alberg is chair.
Duchesses are Liza Monaghan, Lucy Ridley and Carol Wasielewski. Dukes are Don Davis, Don Dodson and Ivan Rich.
This year’s Crown & Sceptre Ball will be June 1 at the Hilton Memphis.
I was honored to be a judge again at High Point Pub’s Kathy Allen Memorial Chili Contest, held Jan. 21 in front of High Point Pub. I actually didn’t have to wear a jacket this year because of the mild weather, but the chili still hit the spot.
The chili contest was named after one of the bar’s patrons, said Curt Carie, an owner of High Point Pub and the contest organizer.
This year’s winners: Craig Pollard won People’s’ Choice and the Grand Champion awards. Kim Davis won second place and David Sears won third place.