South Mississippi Still Generous Despite Tough Economy

BILOXI (WLOX) -- Despite today's challenging economic times, South Mississippi residents continue opening their checkbooks to causes and organizations they support.

Mississippi often ranks near the top of national surveys about charitable giving. And this week there's good evidence of that.

The pinch on your pocketbook is obvious: The cost of gasoline, high prices at the grocery store and higher property taxes for many coast residents. But despite it all, South Mississippi still has a very giving spirit.

Just ask the Gulfport Chamber, the Red Cross and Congregation Beth Israel.

Beau Rivage workers raise a giant disco ball. They spend the afternoon Friday transforming the Camellia Ballroom into their own Studio 54. That's the theme for this year's Red Cross fundraiser.

"We've already broken our fund raising goals. We've already brought in more money than we had hoped to. So, everything we do tonight is icing on the cake," said local Red Cross director Bill Brent.

So, why, in a challenging economy, would so many fork over $50 each for a night at a Red Cross disco?

"So many people who benefited from our services, in particular after the storm, really see this as an opportunity to give back. And people who can are coming and donating with their time and with their money," says Brent.

The Island View parking garage will host a giant Jimmy Buffet style party Friday night. Margaritafest is the chamber of commerce's biggest fundraiser.

"We had about 2,000 people last year. So, we're hoping for that kind of crowd tonight at well. Ticket sales and table sales have been great. So, I think we're going to see it," said co-chair Jessica Crosby.

Multi-colored tables represent thousands of dollars in support for small business.

"Mainly being our small business grants. And last year with the funds from Margaritafest, we were able to give away more than $12,000 in small business grants," says Crosby.

There was another successful fund raiser earlier this week at Hard Rock. 475 people attended a wine and food festival that raised some $30,000 to support the rebuilding of Congregation Beth Israel.