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Story by Susan O'Connor, Photos by Dero Sanford

It’s easy to see that Johnna Dobbs has a heart for Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro and the hundreds of children served by the organization each year.

Dobbs, a member of Junior Auxiliary’s provisional class in 2005, has served as chairman of JA’s 2009 Annual Charity Ball for the past 12 months, leading the organization in its annual fundraising effort. With the theme of “Children … the Heart of Junior Auxiliary,” members of the local non-profit are gearing up for its sole fundraiser to be held Feb. 14 at the Holiday Inn Holidome. One of the largest philanthropic events held in Jonesboro each year, some 500 people are expected to attend this year’s Charity Ball.

Dobbs specializes in product development for Mastercraft International. The family-owned company begun by her father, Jerry Strickland, manufactures table lamps and home furnishings that are sold to the masses through stores such as Wal-Mart and Target.

In 2005, Dobbs put her creative touch to work for the benefit of JA for the first time by designing a tall candlelabra accented with crystal prisms to adorn each table at JA’s 2006 Charity Ball. The accessory was designed to carry out the theme of that year’s event, “Children … the Crown Jewels of Junior Auxiliary,” and featured jewel-like prisms that accented each candelabra.

Mastercraft International manufactured the table decorations, which were then sold before and during the event. As a result, each table was adorned with a beautiful centerpiece that brought in revenue for JA instead of being an additional expense to the organization.

Dobbs has designed the centerpiece for JA’s Charity Ball each year since. This year, each table will feature crystal candelabras in either a 24- or 36-inch height accented with crystal embellishments.

With a decorating budget of only $1,500 for the 500-person event, Dobbs explained, Junior Auxiliary would not be able to afford such elaborate table decorations if the accessories were not sold for a small profit at Charity Ball.
One of the most unique aspects of this year’s Charity Ball is that the event will actually be held on Valentine’s Day. To capture the essence of the evening, guests will enter through a romantic foyer featuring beautiful chandelier that will be adorned with elegant red fabric.

“I always love the ‘Wow!’ effect,” Dobbs said. “ When guests come to Charity Ball that night, we don’t want it to feel like they are walking into the Holidome. We have tried to create an atmosphere where people can come and have a fun, romantic evening.”

In observance of Valentine’s Day, this year’s event will also include a champagne bar complete with a champagne fountain and dinner will include two romantic desserts for couples to share: a decadent chocolate cake and raspberry éclair cheesecake.

Mary Kay Jones, president of Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro, said the organization exists to serve the city’s youth and accomplishes its work in large part through those who attend Charity Ball.

“The ladies of Junior Auxiliary have devoted thousands of hours this past year reaching over 10,000 children in our community,” Jones said.

Examples of what JA members have accomplished this year include:
• Providing clothing and food to more than 600 children and their families;
• Serving as mentors and tutors to students in Craighead County;
• Teaching more than 2,000 of local youth about the dangers of smoking;
• Becoming lunch buddies with local elementary school children;
• Providing more than $35,000 in scholarships to undergraduate students at ASU and establishing the Junior Auxiliary Endowment Fund at ASU.

Jones described Junior Auxiliary as an organization of hope that looks to the future. “With the challenges we face currently, it is especially important to convey such characteristics to the children of our community. Our programs show them a positive face and demonstrate how committed people can make a difference.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 38th annual Charity Ball will be held Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Holiday Inn Holidome. Tickets are $200 per couple and $100 for individuals. To reserve tickets, contact Johnna Dobbs at 933-8010, extension 222. Cocktail hour and the silent auction begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and dancing until midnight with entertainment by Memphis Soul Revue. Black tie is optional.