Local businesses give back to community in big way

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, July 1, 2017


NATCHEZ — For some local businesses, giving back to the community does not just make business sense — it is the right thing to do.

Since 1996, The Markets have been actively involved in the annual Miss-Lou Relay for Life — the region’s annual American Cancer Society fundraiser.

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Since then The Markets have raised more than $370,000 in donations. In recent years, employees from the Natchez-based grocery store group sold steak dinners in the spring as its primary fundraiser.

Last year employees cooked more than 3,500 steaks, raising more than $42,500 for the Relay for Life cause.

The Markets Retail Operations Director Barry Loy said the company got involved in Relay for Life when his mother Jane Loy was battling cancer. She died in 2002.

“Over the years we have been pretty committed as a company to helping out,” Loy said. “Cancer unfortunately touches every person’s life in some way. This has been near and dear to our hearts.”

Miss-Lou Relay for Life Chairman Janis Holder said The Markets also help on the day of the Relay event, helping other teams set up tents and helping provide and set up the accounting tent for the organizers.

“They are always out there in the community helping out,” Holder said. “They are just an incredible bunch of people.”

In addition to Relay for Life, Loy said The Markets contributes to the community in many ways. The company gives to the United Way and sponsors numerous local youth sports teams and high school athletics.

“We like to give back to the community because it is the right thing to do,” Loy said. “We live in our community and want it to prosper.”

“If you have been blessed like we have, you try to share what you have,” he said.

Home Bank Mississippi Market President Deanna Bowser echoes Loy’s commitment to the community.

In the last year, the bank on Main Street in downtown Natchez has helped organize a holiday gumbo cook-off, contributed to the annual chili cook-off on the bluff and contributed to the new Downtown Natchez Farmers Market.

In addition to donating funds to the Saturday market, Home Bank purchased reusable grocery totes for visitors to the market.

“In the first two weeks, we have already handed out 500 bags and have ordered another 500 to give away,” Bowser said.

Bowser said the bank, like The Markets, contributes to help the community grow and see it prosper.

“It is important to be a part of the community and to be involved,” Bowser said. “We are right here, and we want to do what we can to bring residents and visitors downtown.”

Like Home Bank, other local financial institutions are also involved in the community.

Concordia Bank participates in the Bank at School program in every sixth grade in the region. As part of the program, students open up a bank in the schools, complete with savings accounts and bank tellers. The program teaches the importance of saving money and using money wisely, Concordia Bank President Pat Biglane said.

Among the many of other contributions the bank makes to the community, Concordia Bank frequently hosts Concordia Parish Public Library concerts in its bank lobby in an effort to bring a variety of music talent to the area.

“It is a win-win thing. In the 114 years we have been here, we want to help build up the quality of life in the community to make people want to live here,” Biglane said.

United Mississippi Bank Marketing Director Sarah Smith said when she recently joined the company she was amazed by the number of community programs to which the bank contributes, including area schools sports, charities and organizations.

The bank recently helped donate to the downtown Natchez hanging flower basket project and to anti-drug education efforts in the schools.

“It is part of the culture (at UMB),” Smith said. “Making the community successful is part of giving back.”

Even smaller businesses are playing a role in giving back to the community.

Dakota Barnett, manager of the local restaurant Slick Rick’s Café, said the restaurant started the program to give back to local charities.

“There are so many in need right under our nose that we felt like it was important to help make a difference,” Barnett said.

The restaurant on Pearl Street gives all of it tips away to charity. Each month, Slick Rick’s chooses a local charity such as the Natchez Stewpot, The Natchez-Adams County Humane Society and the animal shelter in Concordia Parish.

The restaurant posts the name of  the charity of the month on a sign above the counter and requests customers leave tips in a jar on the front counter. The jar collects several hundred of dollars in tips each month, Barnett said.

“We get so focused on all of the needs far away in other corners of the world, when the truth is you can make a difference in your own hometown,” Barnett said.