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Ring in the Holidays
with Mistletoe Madness

by Audrey Hanes, illustration by Brittney Guest

Whether it’s for the ultimate holiday shopping experience under one roof or the myriad of fun activities throughout the weekend, many in Jonesboro look forward to the annual Mistletoe Madness event, a benefit for Community Health Education Foundation. As the event celebrates 15 years, organizers hope that a move to a new venue and the addition of a Festival of Trees will raise more money for the nonprofit organization and its mission to serve Jonesboro in health education and prevention of disease.

Although the purpose has always been the same, the first Mistletoe Madness in 2005 started out small; it was held in the home of Dr. Billy and Tina Cook with just 10 vendors.

“We started small and grew and grew until we were up to more than 100 vendors at the old fairgrounds,” said Community Health Education Foundation (CHEF) Executive Director Emily Lard, who explained that the venue for the fundraiser changed numerous times over the years due to availability and space. “We are so excited to have a new home for a long time at Gamble Home Furnishing Shop Local Park Event Center. … The biggest thing is our participants will now know where to find us the first weekend of December each year and we will continue with 50 to 60 vendors.”

The 2019 Mistletoe Madness will take place from Dec. 6-8 at Gamble Home Furnishings Event Center Shop Local Park. The event has grown into a weekend full of activities, starting with a VIP Cupcakes & Cocktails Girls’ Night Out on Friday, followed by Saturday morning’s Mimosas & Muffins, along with doughnuts, story time and photos with Santa in his sleigh.

“We are pleased to have stores and shops from many Arkansas towns and four states,” said Lard. “There are many things a person can purchase, including adult clothing, children’s clothing, holiday décor, different foods, jewelry, wood furniture, stocking stuffer gifts, everything embroidered from tennis shoes to rain jackets, accessories, products for the kitchen, active wear for men and women, home décor, you name it.”

Co-chairing the annual holiday-themed weekend are longtime CHEF volunteers Stacey Schratz and Donna Caldwell. The women and their committee are excited for all the of the changes in store for 2019.

“The 15th year will be one of the largest and best in the past five years for Mistletoe Madness with a wide variety of vendors,” said Caldwell, the program coordinator for the cardiovascular interventional program and an associate professor of medical imaging and radiation sciences at Arkansas State University. “We will include a door prize for lucky winners who have visited the booths and have turned in a card stamped when they leave. We will have a drawing from these cards for gifts, including one $500 cash prize.”

Organizers hope that the move to Shop Local Park will provide stability so that shoppers will know when and where the event will be held each year. The size of the new location will also allow CHEF to add a Festival of Trees, which Lard says they have been wanting to add for years but couldn’t because of lack of space.

“The trees will be designed, decorated and donated by individuals, community organizations and businesses,” said Lard. “These trees will be given to a person or families on Sunday, Dec. 8, who do not have a tree of their own. Nominations for tree recipients can be made by emailing the name, address and a paragraph in 700 words or less about why this person/family needs a tree. Organizations and businesses entering a tree will be competing for two awards, ‘The Great Christmas Tree’ award selected by a committee and ‘The People’s Choice Tree’ award selected by those attending Mistletoe Madness. Those who would like to enter a tree can email chefjonesboro@gmail.com.”

“We want to continue to give back to the community by donating the decorated trees to families that might not have a Christmas tree,” added Caldwell.

All funds raised at the 15th annual event will go towards much-needed health education programs, screenings and partnerships in the community.

“All the proceeds go back into the community through our programs, such as the Women’s Health Conference, where we provide free health screenings to the community,” said Schratz, the DDS Children with Chronic Health Conditions Craighead County DHS NEA area manager. “We have placed 77 AEDs through our AED Placement Program for nonprofits, community centers, volunteer fire departments and schools with the proceeds of our programs. We also help for-profit businesses get AEDs at reduced prices and help in setting up CPR and AEF training for the sites.”

“This year, we have had a man at church and a teacher at a local school that virtually were saved by AEDs that were placed through community support and CHEF. These were instances where cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) alone would not have saved these individuals. The man from the church came and spoke to us and said that he would not be here today to see his grandchildren and would not have had another anniversary with his beloved wife without the support of what CHEF does. That’s pretty powerful.”

For more information about the 2019 Mistletoe Madness or for how to volunteer for CHEF, visit chefjonesboro.org. General shopping tickets are $7 per person at the door and $15 per person for the special events at Mistletoe Madness that are presold at chefjonesboro.org.