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Charity Ball 2018:
Arabian Nights
“Everything You’ve Ever Wished For”

by Audrey Hanes, photography by Amy Long

Every year, the support of the Jonesboro community and the hard work of Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro’s 85 active members enable the organization’s annual Charity Ball to be a fantastic success, allowing the nonprofit’s sole fundraiser to fund 12 hands-on service projects and touch the lives of more than 4,750 children in Craighead County.

The 2018 Charity Ball Chair, Whitney Pardew, is in her third year of service with Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro (JA) and says that she loves being a part of the nonprofit organization because of the real impact it has on area children.

“Junior Auxiliary’s mission is to meet the needs of children to help ensure that their futures are bright,” said Pardew, a Jonesboro native who works as a project manager for Olympus Construction. “JA’s core values and beliefs are special to me, because I’m able to see that we are making a difference in the lives of local children that are in need. I feel fortunate for what God has given me, and I think it’s important to pay it forward every day.”

JA supports its 12 service projects both financially and with the time of its members, who totaled 2,600 hours just last year. Those service projects include Consolidated Youth Services (CYS), Crown Club, Girls Enrichment Junior High, Girls Enrichment Senior High, Growing Healthy, Kick-Start Kindergarten, Literacy & More, Scholarship, Share & Wear, The Learning Center, Times Tales and Community Outreach Programs (COPs).

“Girls Enrichment Junior High and Community Outreach Programs are our newest projects, which we kicked off this past fall,” said 2017-2018 JA President Kristy McDaniel. “With COPS, committee members develop one-time programs aimed at addressing relevant and immediate needs in our community. The focus this year has been on helping prepare foster kids who are aging out of the foster care system.”

So far, Pardew has personally served on Literacy & More, Kick-Start Kindergarten and The Learning Center. She says that while she has learned so much on each of the three projects, Literacy & More has made the biggest impact on her heart.

“During Literacy & More, I had lunch with a group of fourth graders every Wednesday, and I would bring them treats like cookies and Takis while we read a book,” she said. “I will never forget the relationship I built with them over the past two years. Eating lunch, reading and talking about their days would put everything in perspective to me. I enjoyed being a positive role model for them, and I look forward to seeing them grow.”

“Junior Auxiliary touches the lives of so many children in Craighead County,” added McDaniel. “We have a small army of dedicated women who volunteer a significant amount of time from their already busy lives to make our community better. We work with all of the school districts in Craighead County, including Jonesboro, Valley View, Brookland, Bay, Westside and Nettleton to implement our projects. Currently, we have 12 hands-on projects ranging from book clubs, math tutoring, science and dissection, junior high and high school student mentoring programs, coat closets, assisting at The Learning Center, scholarship opportunities and fostering the next generation of volunteers through the Crown Club in high school.”

McDaniel says it’s the tangible and lasting impact on children that make the mission of JA so important to her.

“The mission of Junior Auxiliary is to meet the needs of children in our community, whether it’s by providing extra academic support, providing necessary clothes, mentoring to help instill self-esteem and independence, or helping fund higher education through scholarships,” said McDaniel. “By making a positive impact in these children's lives, my hope is we are increasing their opportunities for success in school and beyond. When the children our members work with recognize them outside of school, there is excitement to see a friendly face. Hopefully, the children will remember our gestures and interactions and know they are supported as they go through adolescence.”

The 720 guests at 2017’s Charity Ball helped JA raise more than $175,000, a number that the organization hopes to match again in 2018. Pardew and the current JA members have planned a unique, vibrant evening and an “Arabian Nights” theme for the March 3 event.

“The inspiration for the theme came from every woman’s desire to travel to new and mysterious locations,” said Pardew. “We wanted to bring Arabian Nights to Jonesboro by transforming First National Bank Arena into a whirlwind of exotic flowers, gold lanterns and colorful tents.

“… Our guests to Charity Ball this year can expect a magical evening of amazing food, high-energy entertainment, dancing and mixing and mingling. We think our new signature cocktail will be a hit. This year, our auction will be streaming live, so guests can view the items on the video boards in real time. We have also added another photo booth and a Wheel of Fortune to our silent auction.”

Whether it’s by attending Charity Ball itself or by donating money or auction items, it’s vital for the community to support JA’s sole fundraiser for its 12 service projects.

“It’s important for the community to support JA because without Charity Ball we would not be able to develop and implement our efforts, ensuring opportunities for our children,” said Pardew. “The money raised at Charity Ball is invested back into our community throughout the year. With only one fundraiser, we can focus time, energy and resources on the true meaning of Junior Auxiliary. This means dedication to our mission and a heart (for) service remains our priority for the other 364 days.”

The 47th annual Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro Charity Ball will take place on March 3 at Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center. The night will begin at 6 p.m. with cocktails and appetizers, followed by dinner, a live auction and music by The Party Jammers of Memphis. The event is black tie-optional. For more information or to purchase tickets for $150 each, visit jajonesboro.org and click on Charity Ball.