The first part of a celebration Saturday, June 22, featured the renaming of a girl's cottage at Hope Village for Children in honor of the Riley Foundation.
"They were the first people in the community to really step up and believe in the dream that we had," said actress Sela Ward. "Just a handful of us, and made it become a reality. Because without them, Hope Village wouldn't be a reality.
"It's something that has been very needed in our area, as most of the children were having to go outside of the Meridian area to be taken care of," said Becky Lewis of the Riley Foundation. "And to be able to keep them here is a tremendous asset for this area."
Back when Hope Village was just a dream, the Riley Foundation initially donated $300,000. An additional $275,000 donation brought the renaming of the girl's cottage.
"It's very expensive to renovate a cottage. We've had to replace roofs and asbestos and make it wheelchair accessible and etc," said Ward. "So it's an enormous cost and that takes care of the furnishings and the renovation."
And over in the gym, the Lamar School cookbook committee was hosting its "Jamaican Me Hungry" fundraiser for Hope Village. Ward also attended Lamar in her school days.
"It features foods out of our cookbook, but the proceeds for tonight's fundraiser go to Hope Village, for equipment on the playground," said Lamar School headmaster Termie Land.
"Right now on the facility, we have the Peavey House which houses children from birth to eleven," said Cathy Thompson of Hope Village. "And then we have the Hope Village side which houses children from 12 to 17. So ideally, the playground will be something that all of the children can use, regardless of age."
And finally, Ward thanked Meridian, saying Hope Village wouldn't exist without their help.
"I've never seen people open their hearts and their checkbooks to help a cause like this," said Ward. "And it's a wonderful statement about our community, because you judge a community by how well it takes care of its own."