Leno's night of laughs raised some serious cash for non-profits

By David Elliott – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On Monday morning, nine non-profit groups got a share of $116,000. That's the money Jay Leno helped raise when he hosted a Stand Up for the Gulf concert.

Nobody was laughing when oil spewed into the gulf, and more and more people began turning to non-profits for help. Bill McIntyre remembers what it was like. "If you listen to their story you cannot say I can't help you or I don't have the funds," the St. Vincent de Paul representative said. "You have to find a way to help them some way or another."

One solution to help came on a Saturday night in August, when Jay Leno got people to start laughing again. The biggest benefactors of Leno's night of comedy were the non-profit groups that desperately needed money to survive.

The Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence was one of Monday's grant recipients. "This grant will help us with our everyday operating cost to provide the shelter," center representative Sandra Morrison said.

A committee of local leaders worked with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to determine who should get the grants. Becky Montgomery sat on that committee. "We did what we were charged to do. And that was to affect the greatest number of people," Montgomery said.

Monday's news conference was a blessing to the St. Vincent De Paul Community Pharmacy ($13,000), St. Vincent de Paul Conference ($12,479), the Bethel Free Clinic ($15,000), the Hancock County Food Pantry ($7,371), Hope Haven ($10,000), the Mental Health Association of Mississippi ($20,000), the Mississippi Center for Justice ($15,000), and Gulf Coast Community Ministries ($5,000).

Terry Latham is with Hope Haven. "It's a real pleasure when you go home at the end of the day and you know you've done something to help," he said.

There were actually 21 groups that applied for funding through the Mississippi Oil Spill Recovery Fund. Fund managers explained the nine agencies receiving money met Jay Leno's criteria. They had the ability and the programs to the help the community the quickest.

For Kay Denault and the Mental Health group, the $20,000 gift was critical. "We want to bring some positive through this and help build resilience," she said.

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