By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of CIndy Gordon
Giving back is a way of life for Cindy Gordon who has been instrumental in many civic improvements around Hernando, Mississippi.
Cindy Gordon enjoys helping people. When opportunities present themselves to do so, she takes them. It’s as simple as that. “I think people know to do the right thing. There’s a little voice inside that says, ‘This is the right thing to do,’” she explains.
As area manager of the Hernando, Mississippi, branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage, she knows her community well and has served it professionally for 22 years.
Recent civic involvements for Gordon and Fairway in Hernando have been a Veterans Day parade, construction of a dog park, and the renovation of a downtown building to house the DeSoto County Arts Council.
Fairway received the Community Star Award for 2017 from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. Tom Pittman, president, said the yearly award recognizes a business that has provided exceptional service to the community in both time and money donations. The foundation was impressed with Gordon’s leadership in bringing to fruition both the dog park and the arts council building; both have enriched the community.
“My wife takes our dog to the dog park,” Pittman adds with a smile. “It’s a great place for dogs and for people.” Gordon, 62, agreed, saying she’s impressed with “the way people of all ages interface.”
The dog park near downtown started when a neighbor visited Gordon at her office. He had been trying to get some sort of community space for dogs, but his efforts had stalled. Gordon made calls to the Hernando Parks & Recreation Foundation and about a year later, things started moving.
The city donated an acre and a half, a beautiful, forested space with large trees. People stepped up with money, time, in-kind donations, and “sweat equity.” Landscaping included separate play and running areas for large and small dogs. The infrastructure incorporated gravel, benches, a fence, and handy fountains for dogs and owners.
The DeSoto County Arts Council building started in much the same way.
Sensing a community sentiment, Gordon, who at the time was president of the board of directors of the arts council, approached the Hernando City Council with a proposal. Gordon asked if the arts council could lease the vacant, run-down, old city hall for its headquarters. She offered to raise money and renovate it in exchange for a low rent. The city council agreed.
Word got out. Fairway and Cooke Insurance, which is owned by Gordon’s husband Charles, set up a community challenge grant of $10,000. Donations came in. People rolled up their sleeves. Out went the moldy walls and water damaged floors. The single level building and basement were gutted and brought up to code. Local artisans crafted a patio bar from a large tree.
The old city hall had a jail downstairs, which is now a storage area.
“And, yes, the ominous, iron bar, cell door is still there,” Gordon says with a laugh.
The renovated building is now two years old and so permanent and visible on the square that people can’t imagine Hernando without it. Exhibits rotate. Townspeople brown bag lunches on the patio. Wine and cheese parties occur regularly. Locals especially like the First Friday Art Walks that start in April and run through September.
“We have so many great artists in Mississippi,” Gordon said.
Vickey McLendon, who replaced Gordon as arts council board of directors’ president, describes the building as “very quaint and charming.”
McLendon praises both Cindy and Charles Gordon for the community work they and their companies do. “The two businesses sponsor a lot and give back to the community. They’re involved in very nice events and services,” she says.
A recent involvement that took less time than either the dog park or the city hall renovation was Hernando’s Veterans Day Parade. “That was fairly easy,” Gordon says.
The planning involved permits from the city for a route and street closings; getting the word out to area veterans; and organizing parade cars. Townspeople quickly contributed donations and in-kind gifts.
“People in the area are very gracious, very giving,” Gordon said.
Veterans, their families, and guests were treated to a lunch at the local armory. As Gordon cooked and served spaghetti, she listened to the chatter around the tables.
“The veterans told a lot of stories and enjoyed themselves,” she said. “It’s going to become an annual event.”
Gordon came to Fairway with an IT background. In addition to the Hernando office, she manages others in Batesville and Oxford, Mississippi, and Pensacola, Florida. She and Charles have been married for 35 years and have two sons, both doctors. They make a point of mentoring others, both children and adults.
“Charlie and I live by this Bible verse, Ecclesiastes 11:1: Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days,” Gordon says. “There’s always something you can do. I am for people. I am for this county. I am for supporting our veterans. I am for supporting people who are in need.”
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