Knight Nonprofit Center Taking Care of Those Taking Care of Our Community

By: Melody Worsham

Although hurricane Katrina brought many challenges to the Gulf Coast, it also brought many new resources. Our community’s nonprofits continue to work hard to serve those in need. Our charities sustain us through the toughest times, and the Knight Nonprofit Center is here to make sure these vital organizations have a place to take care of themselves.

The center is owned by four anchor organizations – The Gulf Coast Business Council, United Way of South Mississippi, the Coast Chamber and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. With a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the building previously owned by Harrah’s Entertainment on Seaway Road in Gulfport was purchased and renovated to be administrative office space for hundreds of nonprofits. Other funders of the building include Southern Company Charitable Trust and the MS Governor’s Hurricane relief Fund. The center is governed by a board made up of tenants and the building owners.

The Knight Center offers affordable office space with the best support facilities an office building could have. Rent starts at $13 per square foot per year, and includes utilities, security and light housekeeping. The Center has several state-of-the-art and spacious conference rooms and a large banquet hall, caterer’s kitchen, break rooms and mail delivery. All these amenities are part of the package when your organization becomes a tenant of the Knight Nonprofit Center.

And if that isn’t enough, the Knight Center has resources for non-tenant organizations as well. “We have meeting space readily available for impromptu and emergency meetings,” said Melissa Byrd Lunsford, operations manager of the Knight Center. It is the perfect place to bring local and out-of-state dignitaries for press conferences, she continued. The Center is just a short drive from the airport. “We currently have three tenants working on the oil crisis,” Melissa said. United Way, Hands On Gulf Coast and the MS Gulf Coast Black Nurses Association are working with the Knight Center’s new tenants, the MS Commission for Volunteer Services to organize the oil crisis response on the Gulf Coast.

Melissa began working at the Knight Center in January of this year. Right after Katrina, Melissa was impressed with the Center’s mission. Still in its planning stages at that time, Melissa returned to school to improve her ability to help with recovery from the storm. “I knew then I wanted to work at the Knight Nonprofit Center,” she said. In six short months, Melissa has been able to refine and enhance the Center’s ability to serve local nonprofits and Center tenants. “As we move forward,” said Melissa, “we have options to expand and partner with more community resources for external [non-tenant] nonprofits. And we plan to partner with more dedicated businesses on the Gulf Coast to provide even more services to our tenants.”

“I was getting a lot of calls for training and grant-writers and grant-writing classes,” she said. So in June, the Knight Nonprofit Center partnered with Coast Community Connect to bring local nonprofits a series of Workshops and Seminars throughout the summer months. “The courses give the Knight Center a chance to reach out to other Gulf Coast organizations and utilize our meeting space,” Melissa said. “Let them see for themselves the benefits and amenities we have to offer.”

Coast Connect and the Knight Center share a common mission, which is to provide essential services at affordable prices. Coast Community Connect provides support services, including grant-writing, public relations and marketing, board development and training. It’s a perfect fit. The Knight Center provides a beautiful state of the art facility in a convenient location. Coast Connect provides the capacity-building services to help these organizations thrive in any economy. “What makes me feel good is that we can work together on issues and concerns [to meet the needs of our community],” said Melissa.

Times are tough for most Gulf Coast charities. Donations have dropped as the demand for charitable services has increased. The summer courses are designed to increase and strengthen the overall efficiency and effectiveness of local organizations. Attendees will gain the knowledge, skills and abilities in the core competencies of nonprofit leadership and management. Topics will include Community Partnerships, Grant-Writing, Budgeting, Board Enrichment, Volunteer Recruitment, and more. Many seminars are free to attend. Knight Center tenants receive discounts on all workshops.

Summer Classes began in June and will continue through August. The Knight Nonprofit Center is located 11975 Seaway Road in Gulfport. Melissa welcomes all organizations to visit the Center or schedule a tour. To receive a Summer Workshop Schedule, email or visit their website at To reach Melissa to schedule a tour of the Knight Center, call 228-234-9607 or email her at

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