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a night in havana: red dress gala 2017
by Audrey Hanes, photography by Amy Long

Each year, heart health advocates and supporters of the Community Health Education Foundation are recognized at the nonprofit’s annual Red Dress Gala. The organization works to serve the community and promote health education and prevention of heart disease through use of health education programs, screenings and partnerships.

The 2017 event, A Night in Havana, will honor Dr. Devi Nair with the Health Advocate Award, the Quinn Family with the Ed Way Community Service and Support Award, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital with the Professional Community Service and Support Award (more than 100 employees), Dr. Kevin Reed of Vetcare with the Professional Community Service and Support Award (fewer than 100 employees) and Stacey Schratz as the Red Dress Ambassador.

“As always, the people of Region 8 come together to support the Community Health Education Foundation each year for this event,” said 2017 Red Dress Gala Chair Tara Ferguson. “I love that we get to honor the actions of various community health and philanthropic individuals and families here in Region 8, because they are who make this such a great place to live.”

Ferguson, a sales account executive at KAIT, first became involved with Community Health Education Foundation (CHEF) and the Red Dress Gala in the workplace.

“Although I originally learned about CHEF at work, after attending a meeting and learning of the programs, health screenings and AED placements that CHEF provides to all of Region 8, I immediately wanted to become more involved,” said Ferguson. “Also, my grandparents have all passed due to various heart problems, so I think of it as a way to educate others and to honor them.”

The 2017 chair says she is looking forward to everything that goes along with the gala’s theme this year, as well as the entertainment from Memphis’ Groove Factor.

“Each year is always a new and different theme, and this year’s ‘A Night in Havana’ will be no different,” said Ferguson. “I love to see how everything comes together, from the live and silent auctions to the décor. We have also sought out a new band this year that has never come to this area, so that should make for a fun and interesting night, as well.”

The auction will feature more than 150 packages, along with many big ticket items such as a week in Turks and Caicos, Yeti coolers, a Big Green Egg, a week in the Grand Caymans, Jason Aldean tickets with VIP passes, sports tickets and more.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, which goes to support our awareness of women and heart disease programs, ‘Girl Talk’ Women’s Health Conference and various other programs,” said Ferguson. “We supply important health screenings for local businesses and the general public that they might not receive otherwise; for instance, we have caught several heart problems that could have potentially resulted in a heart attack. We also strive to provide informational seminars, literature and general advertising education to the public on various heart and health related issues, diabetes, COPD, etc.

“The community can help CHEF fund all of that by supporting the Red Dress Gala.”

The 2017 Red Dress Gala will take place on Aug. 12 from 6:30-11 p.m. at Arkansas State University’s Centennial Hall and will feature live and silent auctions, casino games, Cuban cuisine, live entertainment and dancing. For more information, visit chefjonesboro.org.

Dr. Devi Nair
Health Advocate Award

Nair, who has been the director of cardiac electrophysiology at St. Bernards Heart and Vascular Center since 2011, has helped bring world class electrophysiology care to Jonesboro while still finding time to give back to the community.

“I am always looking to make a real, lasting difference in my patients’ lives and my community,” said Nair. “Unlike other aspects of life you may not be able to control, volunteering allows you to choose where and how to make a difference. It’s easy to get inspired with a cause you truly care about, and it’s rewarding to see your direct impact.”

Nair is a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s “Win Her Initiative” to encourage more female participation in clinical trials; is a fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society, which spreads awareness of heart rhythm disorders; is a spokesperson for the Close the Gap Foundation; is a physician member of the Arkansas State University physicals team; was the physician chair of the St. Bernards Medical Group Health & Fitness Expo in 2016 and 2017; and has been a physician volunteer for the expo since 2011.

“I live a very busy lifestyle just like most women, trying to manage a hectic work life with family life, being a daughter, wife, mother and a doctor,” said Nair. “At one point in my life, I forgot to take care of my health, but thankfully had a wake-up call one day that made me change my lifestyle. … A personal discipline to ingrain these new habits of eating healthy and regular exercise regimen into my lifestyle has helped address my cardiovascular risk factors and transform me into a new person.”

Nair advises women to listen to their hearts because many women don’t recognize the warning signs of cardiovascular disease until their health and their lives are in jeopardy.

The Quinn Family
Ed Way Community Service and Support Award

Members of the J. Wade Quinn family have been family business owners in Jonesboro since 1965, starting with Jr. Food Store, the city’s second ever convenience store. Since then, J. Wade, Johanna, Wade III, Jim and Patience have gone on to add land development, Quinn Outdoor Advertising and a multitude of general merchandise stores, furniture and lighting stores, pet/feed stores, a laundry mat, smoke shops, restaurant franchises, a mini storage facility and a retail strip center development to the family’s holdings.

“Jonesboro has been so good to my family throughout the decades of family business and seasons of life,” said Wade III. “Growing up here in Jonesboro and now raising my children here, as well, has proved this will always be home. Jonesboro is worthy of time and effort. I have always been proud that Jonesboro is my hometown. Our community is blessed with great churches, schools, an amazing university, the medical community, businesses, civic organizations and, most of all, wonderful people.”

When it comes to those blessings, the Quinn family has helped support as many of them as possible. Wade III says they do not feel worthy of this type of recognition; rather, they say Jonesboro is lucky to have people like Wallace and Jama Fowler, Fred and Susan Cathcart, Nanette Heard and Christie Matthews, all of whom influence the world around them through service, time and money.

“It is a great honor to receive an award named after Ed Way,” said Quinn III. “He always gave over 100 percent to everything and everyone around him. He always made things better just by his presence.

“Whenever you help others, you find that you learn and grow from the experience as much as those you set out to help. … Find a cause you are passionate about, and do all that you can to make it the best it can be.”

NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital
Professional Community Service and Support Award

As a recipient of the Professional Community Service and Support Award, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital fosters an environment where giving back and supporting local nonprofits and organizations are encouraged.

“NEA Baptist is proud to support health, educational and cultural events that make our community a better place to live, work and play,” said Danial Reed, director of marketing. “We believe that shining a light on these programs and organizations allows us all to focus on what matters.

“… Our colleagues are encouraged to be active in the community in a setting in which they are comfortable, whether that is through their church, a nonprofit organization, civic organization or other volunteer opportunities. Serving our community not only provides us yet another outlet to help those in need, it really helps us connect to our purpose and mission of healing, preaching and teaching. Providing healthcare services is just a part of our commitment to this community.”

Organizations and causes that the hospital and its employees support include CHEF, Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro, United Way of Northeast Arkansas, CityYouth, Family Crisis Center, Pregnancy Resource Center, Women Can Run, CASA, the Children’s Advocacy Center, March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity, Alzheimer’s Association, Humane Society of Northeast Arkansas, Reclamation House, Northeast Bicycle Coalition, Foundation of Arts, American Cancer Society, Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Arkansas Prostate Foundation, Susan G. Komen and many more. Reed says the hospital also supports many local events and fundraisers that promote healthy lifestyles and raise money for a good cause, including walk/runs, cycling events and golf tournaments.

The hospital’s own NEA Baptist Charitable Foundation, formed 16 years ago by the physicians of NEA Baptist Clinic, also gives back to the community and works to meet unmet needs in the area. The foundation offers five programs that are free of charge including Center for Healthy Children (and teens), ShareHope, HopeCircle, Medicine Assistance and Wellness Works. A sixth program, Good Grief, is set to be launched later this year and will provide individualized grief counseling to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Dr. Kevin Reed of Vetcare
Professional Community Service and Support Award

Dr. Kevin Reed purchased Vetcare in 1986 and will be honored at the 2017 Red Dress Gala with the Professional Community Service and Support Award. In addition to his busy veterinary practice, Reed finds time to give back to the community any way he can.

Reed and his practice have been longtime supporters of Rotary Club events, Family Crisis Center, Red Dress Gala (CHEF), the Alzheimer’s Association and Susan G. Komen. Reed has also served on the board of the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society for 25 years.

“I am the hoop shoot chairman for the Jonesboro Elks Lodge,” he said. “This is a wonderful program that provides a constructive, character-building experience for youth. It provides competition with peers and teaches the importance of developing individual skills.”

Reed and Vetcare have been longtime supporters of CHEF, as well. He says the foundation does an excellent job of providing health screenings and educational programs throughout the year, all of which can make a profound impact on people’s lives through early diagnosis.

“My philosophy is that (philanthropy) enhances the overall quality of life in the area where I live and work,” said Reed. “… I have always donated items or services to the fundraisers that occur throughout the year. At most of these, Vetcare also purchases a table and attends in support of the function. Many hours and much hard work goes into the planning of these events. I feel that all businesses should consider donating something to their organization of choice.”

Stacey Schratz
Red Dress Ambassador

Longtime Jonesboro resident Stacey Schratz has been a member of CHEF for seven years and will be honored at the 2017 gala as the Red Dress Ambassador.

“Women need to realize that many times with exercise and diet modification, chronic heart disease can be stopped or be far less threatening,” said Schratz, a nurse at Northeast Arkansas Area Agency on Aging. “They need to realize heart disease is many times silent and undetected.”

Schratz has close family members who have been affected by and died from heart disease, so the importance of education and awareness is personal.

“We have to take heart health seriously, or we won’t be able to take care of the other people that are important in our lives,” she said. “… Our volunteers work hard to develop and raise funds for health programs, and we serve as a conduit to bring organizations together to implement the programs and reach many more people this way.”

The Red Dress Ambassador is passionate about CHEF and the real difference it can make in the community, but she says that more volunteers are needed.

“Our CHEF group has several wonderful volunteers working to get the ‘women and heart disease’ message and programs out,” said Schratz. “We need more volunteers to help us triple the production of programs and services that are provided, because heart disease is still the number one killer of women.”