CAP Center celebrates 30 years

Published 6:27 am Sunday, July 12, 2015

The CAP center had its 30th Anniversary Banquet Gala Friday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center with local and national celebrities in attendance.

“We’re so grateful for the Vicksburg community for everything that they’ve done to support us over the 30 years,” Executive Director Erma Driver said. “We have been sustained through their gifts and through their support and their volunteerism, and we’re very grateful for that.”

The gala’s theme was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

WHAT’S FOR DINNER: Supporters of the CAP Center celebrate the center’s 30th birthday Friday at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER: Supporters of the CAP Center celebrate the center’s 30th birthday Friday at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

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“We wanted to tantalize our potential audience with the possibilities of who they might meet if they came,” said Allison Cox, a 15-year board of directors member. “We were hoping for a good turnout, and I’m not disappointed.”

The ceremony started just after 7 p.m. with Gala Moderator Melissa Faith Payne, a Vicksburg native who is a reporter and anchorwoman for Fox 40 News.

Payne introduced the celebrity VIP guests Harley Halpin Caldwell, a local real estate entrepreneur; Linda Fondren, founder on Shape Up Sisters; Vernon Hamilton, former Waikato Pistons basketball player; Debi Lane, pottery designer; the Rev. Roderick Richardson, founder, senior pastor and CEO of The World Center in Jackson; Mark Anthony Smith, former NFL player who now owns a home construction company; Tony Smith, former NFL player and current real estate investor and owner of a renovation company; Will Sterling, photographer of actresses, musicians and more; Aaron “AJ” Thomas, contestant on Fox’s “Master Chef” Jamie Winborn, NFL player and cancer survivor; and Taralyn Alyce Rowell, a student leader.

District Attorney Ricky Smith and Mayor George Flaggs, Jr. were also in attendance.

The gala’s keynote speaker was Uretka Callon, a lead teacher at Dana Road Elementary School. Callon received her doctorate in educational leadership from Jackson State University. Her speech related all the hard times in her life to different songs she felt described those moments. Through the hardships in her family, her faith and perseverance along with the generosity of others led her to her career through education.

Fundraiser co-chairs Deowarski McDonald and Melanie Sanders welcomed the guests once the celebrities were seated. After the invocation, Driver stated the purpose and the mission of the CAP Center and four people told their success stories.

The CAP Center used to stand for the Child Abuse Prevention Center but the name changed in 2011 to the Child and Parent Center.

“We were evolving into something that encompasses more than just child abuse prevention,” Driver said. “We were targeting the whole family as a unit and how to make the entire family strong by providing different programs and services.”

As guests entered the convention center, they were met at the top of the escalator by a backdrop where a photographer was taking photos. A cocktail hour began at 6 p.m. with finger foods and a bar set up outside exhibit hall B. Carl Koonce strummed an acoustic guitar as guests appraised the items available at the silent auction.

“The purpose of raising money is so that we can grow our services,” Cox said. “We would like to be able to serve more children, but that takes more people and more time. That’s our goal is to be able to serve more people, and that’s the purpose of fundraising.”

Driver had a list of goals for the night’s event.

“First to commemorate the 30 years, second to honor our founders and third to bring awareness to child abuse,” Driver said.

Dinner was served inside exhibit hall B of the convention center. Multiple large, round tables with candles as centerpieces were set up in the dimly lit room. White, round lanterns of light hung from the ceiling at varying heights. A collection of white balloons hung atop white columns placed in the back of the room.

A stage was set up in the front of the room with a podium, a projection screen and a band placed on top. Once the ceremony was completed there was entertainment and dancing.

Driver expressed appreciation to the sponsors saying they expected 300 people at the gala.

“It has turned out exactly the way we expected, even greater so in my opinion,” Driver said.