Talk of the Town - January 2020
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lionel Haynes, Jr.
"The Year of the Bay Ratz" is a very fitting theme for this year's Mardi Gras fundraiser dinner/dance and silent auction January 25.
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lionel Haynes, Jr.
The annual Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society has hundreds of participants walking each year. During this new event, they'll be dancing as well!
- story by Lisa Monti
She has been busy recruiting amateur dancers to perform in Hancock County’s version of the hugely popular television dancing competition. As of this writing, Bernie has recruited 10 acts who will compete solo acts, dancing couples or groups. (Their identities are a closely held secret but Bernie promises “very eclectic” acts.)
Local judges will critique and score the acts and then award first, second and third place trophies.
“We’ll also have a People’s Choice Award for the crowd favorites,” Bernie said. An award also will be presented to the dancers who sell the most tickets to the event.
Bernie said the Dancing with the Relay Stars show is a perfect fit for fun-loving Hancock Countians at the perfect time of year, between the holidays and Mardi Gras.
“Other Relays around the country have done this and it’s been really successful and a lot of fun. It’s a nice way for people to support Relay, enjoy a nice meal and silent auction. It’s going to be a fun night.”
And it’s a great way to kickoff the new year for the Relay for Life campaign to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. “The money raised stays in Hancock County and goes for rides to medical appointments and other resources that people need,” Bernie said.
The 2019 Relay for Life will be May 4 at Hollywood Casino’s walking path. In case of inclement weather, the walk will move indoors at the casino.
“Hollywood has been really good partner and so delightful to work with,” Bernie said. As part of its support for Relay for Life, the casino is offering a special $89 hotel room rate for the night of Dancing with the Relay Stars.
Reservations must be made by Jan. 17 using group code ACS0126.
Dancing with the Relay Stars tickets are $75 each or $700 for a table for 10. There is no entry fee for dancers but they are asked to bring a silent auction item and help sell tickets to their friends.
Tickets are available at paypal.me/berniecullenor via Venmo @Bernadette-Cullen-1. If you wish to buy tickets to support a dancer, send Bernie the information on PayPal or Venmo or email her at Tcbbcullen@yahoo.com.
To pay with cash or a check, contact Bernie by email.
Meet Art Clementin, Honorary Survivor for the 2018 Relay for Life event in Hancock County. He's rolling up his sleeves to help out with the event, which raises money that will help others with cancer. Find out how you can join Art on April 21st.
- story by LB Kovac, photos by Ana Balka, Lionel Haynes, Jr. and courtesy Relay for Life
This year, Relay For Life has a new location in Hancock County - the Crab Fest grounds behind the Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, 228 S. Beach Boulevard, Bay St. Louis. On Saturday, April 21st, action gears up at 11am and goes until 9pm.
Members of participating community teams will take shifts walking or jogging in this fun "marathon" event that raises money for the American Cancer Society. Teams will also sell snacks, drinks and register folks for prizes.
Click here to register for the event! Don't have a team? Join one, they'll be delighted to have you!
Clementin underwent a new surgery and successfully eradicate his cancer. A year later, Clementin was declared cancer free.
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, an average of 14,000 people in our state are newly diagnosed with cancer each year. Colorectal and breast cancers are the most common diagnoses, but prostate and mouth cancer diagnoses are on the rise.
The costs of cancer treatment, coupled with the increasing number of diagnoses, mean that cancer is also close to eclipsing heart disease as the number one killer in Mississippi. In 2016, 20% of deaths in the state were caused by cancer, according to the Health Department.
But there is hope.
Clementin puts his faith in the research that is carried on by organizations such as the American Cancer Society. "I was assisted [in my own recovery] because of research done years ago," he says. "I'm a recipient of lots of people's research and hard work in the medical field."
Clementin's role as Honorary Survivor comes with quite a bit of responsibility. It's not wearing a sash and waving at crowds - Clementin must help bridge the gap between cancer survivors and the public, whose donations can greatly affect the outcomes of their diagnoses.
Relay for Life is an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Communities put on their own celebrations - relays, yes, but also games, dinners, and survivor celebrations. Money raised during the event, from sales and donations, funds cancer research and treatment.
"That's why I want to encourage as many people as possible to attend," says Clementin. "We need to get the public involved and fight this horrible disease." With more donations, the research necessary to fight the spread of cancer can proceed.
Bernadette Cullen, along with her co-chair Nonnie Richardson, are the organizers of this year's Harrison and Hancock Counties Relay for Life. The event is slated to take place April 21 at the Our Lady of the Gulf Crabfest grounds.
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Scenes from past Relay For Life Events, Hancock County
Cullen, herself involved with the local Relay for Life event for more than a decade, promises fun at this year's event: games, kids’ craft, popular bands, and good food. "It's a party with a purpose," she says.
Cullen points out that Relay for Life is different from other cancer fundraisers because it doesn't just support one type of cancer. "All types - breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia - you name it, we support it. The money goes to help research for all types."
She adds, "Most of the money stays locally. It goes to all kinds of things that your neighbors need, like medicine, doctor visits, rides, etc."
Without the focus on a particular cancer, Relay for Life attendees and organizers are free to focus on the survivors themselves. People like Clementin, who have successfully treated their cancer, as well as people who are still actively battling their cancers.
And Clementin, in turn, can support one of the organizations that made his own battle that much more speedy. He says, "Doctors are able to do a lot of things they weren't able to do even ten years ago. Whether it's a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars, donations are important to research and saving lives."
CASA's annual Mardi Gras Gala is one of the county's top social events of the year. But the real reason more than 500 people come together on this festive evening is to change the lives of foster children. Find out how.
- story by Ellis Anderson
To purchase advance tickets for individuals or tables, you can call the CASA office (228.344.0419) and pay over the phone, then pick up your tickets at the event. Or swing by the CASA office at 412 Hwy 90, BSL.
Tickets are $40 per person, with eight-top tables available for businesses, family and parties of friends for $600.
The New Orleans dance band, Got Groove, will be performing. They were recently named a Best Wedding band on "The Knot" website, so folks are sure to keep moving at the gala. Food is provided by Hancock County Tax Assessor, and famed community cook, Jimmie Ladner and crew. Smoked meats, pastas and desserts are Ladner’s specialties. Since it’s a “bring your own bottle” affair, mixers, cups and ice will be provided, while beer will be for sale.
One highlight of the evening is the coronation of the 2018 King and Queen, always honorees who have served the community and CASA. This year’s King is John Zimmerman and the Queen is Joy Richardson. New this year – a special cup to honor the pair.
The silent auction brings in a large share of the evening’s proceeds, with donated items ranging from vacations to certificates for local services to jewelry.
According to current CASA board president, Natalie Guess, the most talked about auction item is a piece of land – a lot in Pass Christian’s Timber Ridge subdivision.
“There’s also a cabin trip to Tennessee, a duck-hunting trip and a certificate for a Sandals resort vacation getaway,” says Guess.
Guess says that all of the funds raised by the gala go toward recruiting and training CASA volunteers, who work with individual children in the foster care system.
While the number of volunteers has risen from 50 a few years ago to 90 currently, there are more than 375 children in the Hancock County foster care program. About half of those don’t have a CASA volunteer watching over their best interests.
Guess explains that each of the children is appointed a state social worker when they go into the system. But the state workers are enormously over-burdened and each must handle 20 to 30 cases.
CASA is a national organization with a program that has been proven as a powerful tool to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers are able to give individual attention to the children’s needs, far beyond what the state can offer.
CASA volunteers are assigned a case – sometimes a single child, sometime a case involving siblings. They spend about eight to ten hours a month on each case – meeting with the children, the foster parents, teachers, day care workers and biological parents – anyone who has contact with the children. They also ensure that the children are having their basic needs met.
“Sometimes, our volunteers are the only constants these children have in their lives,” says Guess. “The other people in their lives just don’t follow through.”
Volunteers write up reports, explaining what they believe will be ultimately best for the child. Since the CASA volunteers (in most cases) have spent more time examining the situation than anyone else, in the vast majority of cases, judges go with the recommendations of the advocates.
Guess and her board would like every child to have an advocate because the CASA system works to place children in safe and permanent homes. Most of those with advocates make it out of the foster care system for good.
But that means at least an additional 90 trained volunteers are needed. Potential volunteers first meet with CASA staffers for an in-house interview, to get an overview of the day-to-day workings of a volunteer. CASA then sets up a full national background check. Then volunteers spend three hours a night twice a week in training until the 33-hour program is completed. Graduates are sworn in by a judge.
Trained advocates can even pair up with a co-advocate to gain confidence or if they simply don’t have enough time to handle a case alone.
“We have a CASA board member who knows first-hand what a difference an advocate can make,” says Guess. “She had a CASA advocate growing up. Now she’s a successful woman with a family of her own.”
While children in the CASA program won’t be at the gala, of course, the centerpieces on each of the tables have been made with their help.
“They hand-painted wooden masks that we’re using as the centerpieces,” Guess says. “We’re having them framed and matted and will auction them off that night. We only have 48, but it’ll be wonderful for donors to have something that these kids have created.”
Michael Grimm headlines this food and music event to benefit the popular Starfish Café, on the grounds of the historic Bay St. Louis depot on October 5th.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
Starfish Cafe helps young adults learn cooking and restaurant service skills as well as receive life coaching and skills such as resume writing and financial literacy. Tips and donations help support the program, which has helped dozens since opening.
The live music starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 9:30 p.m. A DJ will be keeping the music flowing and delicious food prepared by Starfish Cafe, Fatsumo’s and Williams Pit BBQ will be sold throughout the event.
Besides food and music, the festival will feature Vendor-Palooza, a collection of all sorts of merchandise for sale. Organizers were looking for something different for the event and came up with the idea to raffle off a real tree with branches loaded up with a variety of gift cards.
The event is free and open to the public, with limited VIP seating at the festival available for $30 per person (click here to purchase online). These will get you close to the stage for live music by headliner Michael Grimm, Will Kimbrough and the Bay Ratz Marching Battery.
In the meantime, an online vendor application is available on the event’s Facebook page, and anyone who wants to donate gift cards or other prizes for the tree giveaway can drop them off at the cafe at 211 Main Street.
Starfish Fest will be icing on the cake during Cruisin’ the Coast week. You don’t want to miss this good time to support a most worthy cause.
For more information and to purchase VIP tickets, go to www.starfishcafebsl.com.
Hancock Medical Center
One of the most glamorous nights in Hancock County - Moonlight On the Bay - provides more than a stellar evening of entertainment. This benefit for the Hancock Medical Center Foundation helps save lives every year.
- by Ellis Anderson
Last year, Empson contracted a rare case of vibrio bacterial infection. The Baton Rouge resident went to the Hancock Medical emergency room, where his life was saved by an emergency amputation performed by Dr. Anthony.
By the time Empson - two-time cancer survivor - arrived at the hospital, his chances for survival were extremely low. He and his family credit the quick action of Anthony and the HMC staff for saving his life.
One of the most popular parts of the event is the legendary silent auction. Carlton says local businesses contribute items that range from an autographed Saints football to fine artwork, from jewelry to spa packages (click here for a donation form).
“We always have lots hotel stays and casino packages and restaurant certificates,” says Carlton. “We always have so many items, thanks to the generosity of our local businesses and patrons.”
Money raised by past Moonlight On the Bay events has been used to help fund the lifesaving Telestroke Program, fetal monitoring systems, mobile ultrasounds, mammography assistance for the uninsured, the Joseph Lee M.D. operating room suite and much more (click here to read more).
Carlson says dress for the event is black-tie optional with some attendees opting for tuxedos or formals and others dressing in business attire.
For more information or to reserve seating, call Carlton at (228) 467-8790.
Videos featured at past Moonlight on the Bay galas
Celebrating 10 Years of Homes
by Karen Fineran
- Habitat Bay-Waveland has built over 200 houses in the ten years since Katrina. Find out how you can help them build Number 202!
Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland (HFHBW) stands out as one of the most effective and inspiring volunteer/non-profit organizations that have revitalized our county since Katrina. Its mission is simple – to provide affordable and sustainable housing for as many low-income people who need it as possible.
It is estimated that about 10,000 volunteers have worked with Habitat here since Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding lives and families, as well as homes. “Katrina changed everything and challenged the very core of our community,” said Executive Director Wendy McDonald. “As horrible as it was, that catastrophic event also served to bring about an incredible culture of hope, resilience and love in our community.”
To show the community’s appreciation and gratitude to all of the volunteers who came to help in our hour of greatest need, in June HFHBW is holding a 10th Anniversary Reunion Build in Bay St. Louis.
The month-long build will use volunteers to build a new home in BSL’s Seal Pointe neighborhood, between Easterbrook and Union Streets. This neighborhood is where the first Habitat homes were constructed in 2006, and to date it contains 54 single-family and duplex homes.
Since 2009, all of HFHBW’s new homes have been built and certified to a green standard, as verified by nationally recognized third parties. Since 2012, HFHBW also has been building its new homes to a “fortified” standard, designed to lessen the impact of damage caused by hurricanes or other natural disasters.
The home that will be built this June will become the 202nd home that HFHBW will have built in Hancock County since it began its work here in 2006. Not only affordable to the lucky family who will live there, it will also be durable and sustainable, built to both green and fortified standards.
“This anniversary event is a time to celebrate the thousands who came to rebuild our community after the storm," said McDonald. "They were total strangers to us before then, from places all over the United States and the world, who selflessly gave us their time, their energy, their money, their optimism, to help us rebuild."
Notwithstanding the sweat and enthusiasm of Habitat’s generous volunteers, it still takes money for building materials to build a home; in this case, about $75,000 will need to be raised. Habitat is asking you, the residents of Hancock County, to donate to the Reunion Build, either individually or as part of your group or organization.
For more information about donating your time or money, please call the Habitat Bay-Waveland office at (228) 467-9699, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the Anniversary Build's website page.
If your business, company or church would like to be a sponsor, corporate sponsorships are available at various levels. In addition, a new on-line peer-to-peer fundraiser website called GiveGab (givegab.com) also is available to facilitate your tax-deductible contribution to HFHBW’s fundraising goal.
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The Bay Rollers -
Remember the days of your youth exploring the streets, joining friends to cruise the beach, and coming up with exciting games on your bike? The cement slab under my house was a course for high-speed chases and the streets were canvases to our invisible swerving trails our tires left behind. Our bikes meant freedom and adventure for my sister and me, often with friends or cousins.
Fond memories like these are not so distant from a group of thirteen guys between 40- and 70-years-old. They call themselves the Bay Rollers Cycling Club. While they aren’t kids anymore, they still enjoy the adventures and friendship their bicycles afford them.
Beach to Bayou
The class project may be a playhouse, but for the twenty-eight participants in the 2015 Leadership Hancock County program, it’s anything but child’s play.
The original playhouse drawing was selected by the Leadership class from dozens of entries submitted by by Hancock County school children. It’s being designed and built students at the Hancock County School District’s Career and Technical Center. When it’s finished, this Dream Playhouse will be raffled off to benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), the local branch of an effective national program that works to protect the interests of abused and neglected children.
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