By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Renasant Bank and the Sundbecks of West Point are this year’s winners of the CREATE Foundation’s McLean Awards for Philanthropy.
The awards were presented Thursday night during the foundation’s fall summit held at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
The McLean Awards for Philanthropy were established in 1997 to honor individuals that exemplify George and Anna McLean’s extraordinary giving. George McLean established CREATE, and the Northeast Mississippi regional foundation has owned the Journal since McLean’s death in 1983.
Renasant Bank was chosen because of its extraordinary support of community events and education initiatives, said CREATE President Mike Clayborne.
“It’s hard to identify a major community project in the region that Renasant Bank’s not a part of,” Clayborne said. “Their involvement says a lot about the culture and values of their organization.”
Renasant’s community involvement includes participation with downtown Tupelo events, Race for the Cure, Habitat for Humanity, the United Way and the Union County School District.
Christy and Milton Sundbeck of West Point also were chosen because of their community involvement, namely in West Point and Clay County.
“When Bryan Foods closed and put a huge dent in the United Way’s campaign, they stepped up and donated $100,000,” Clayborne said.
They also support educational projects and the arts. Plus, they’ve given scholarships to students.
CREATE also recognized the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University as the joint recipients of its community partner award. This year, the two universities partnered to form a task force to help improve educational attainment and overall development in the region.
This year’s James Hugh Ray Community Affiliate Award went to UNITE, which stands for Union County/New Albany Initiative to Excel. UNITE is one of CREATE Foundation’s county affiliates, which are charged with bringing the community’s leadership together to meet local concerns and challenges.
The affiliates raise money and award grants – two tasks that made UNITE stand out this year, Clayborne said.
“They have been very active in making grants,” he said. “They had some large gifts, but they’ve involved hundreds of people in the community as donors, and that’s how you develop a successful community foundation.”