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junior auxiliary of jonesboro’s 45th annual charity ball
by Audrey Hanes, photo by Amy Long

Later this month, more than 600 members of the community will gather at the 45th annual Charity Ball to raise the money that will completely fund Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro’s 12 service projects. Through those projects, the members of the organization are able to touch the lives of thousands of children in Craighead County each year.

Chairing the 2016 Charity Ball is Amanda Heringer, a registered dietitian at St. Bernards Health and Wellness and adjunct faculty member at Arkansas State University who enjoys giving back to the community. In addition to Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro (JA), she is involved with the St. Bernards Women’s Council and the St. Bernards Advocates, where she serves on a variety of race committees within the organizations. She and her husband, Brad, and their 2-year-old daughter, Harper Helen, are also members of First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro.

Heringer, who is in her fourth year of service with JA, says she has wanted to help children by being a member of the organization ever since she was a child.
“At a young age, I remember always wanting to help people and be directly involved with the community,” said Heringer. “My grandmother is a life member of Junior Auxiliary, and I grew up knowing a little bit about the organization. I also remember JA visiting South School and leading a pig lung dissection – Growing Healthy – when I was in 6th grade and thinking, ‘This is the coolest thing ever.’

“When I moved back home after college, I knew I wanted to be involved with the organization. Junior Auxiliary has given me that opportunity to help people in need within our own community.”

Since becoming a JA member, Heringer has been involved with several service projects, including Crown Club, which serves as a junior JA with the purpose of encouraging high school girls across Craighead County to become socially responsible leaders with a passion for serving others.

“I loved this particular project because when I was in high school I didn’t know how to get involved with volunteer organizations outside of school, and this project gives this age group that outlet,” she said. “It also helps girls develop leadership skills that they can use throughout their adult lives.”

The 2016 Charity Ball chair has also co-chaired and chaired Girl’s Enrichment, a service project that works with junior high girls and the process of mentoring them through cultural, vocational and educational programs.

“I really love this project,” said Heringer. “It is a lot of one-on-one time with (girls) who might need advice for school, home or friends. With this project, you really get to know the girl you are individually paired with and make a connection with them, which is really cool.”

Last year, the members of JA dedicated close to 3,000 hours to its service projects with the hope of truly making a difference in the lives of as many children in the Jonesboro community as possible, from getting them excited about science and reading to making sure they have winter coats and shoes that fit.

“Junior Auxiliary is not made of paid volunteers; we do this because we are passionate about making a difference in our community,” said Heringer. “We have several projects that are hands-on with the children in Craighead County. We have some projects that involve one-on-one tutoring, like Kickstart Kindergarten, Times Tales and Lunch and Learn. We have Growing Healthy, which leads 5th grade students through a pig lung and heart dissection, and Literacy and More, which is a book club for 4th through 6th graders at Microsociety. We also provide educational services for developmentally delayed children through the Learning Center (TLC) and work with the adult center there, as well. We have an indirect impact on children through our Share and Wear closet, where we provide clothing and supplies for children in need. We also have awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to Craighead County students to attend the university, vocational or trade school of their choice. Finally, there is Consolidated Youth Services, where we serve as mentors to ladies ages 8 to 18 placed in temporary housing.”

The 4,517 lives that JA touched last year relied on the funds that the service organization raised through Charity Ball, its one and only fundraiser, which is why it is so important that the community, in turn, supports the annual event.

“The citizens of Jonesboro understand the strength we gain through volunteering to make our community a wonderful place to live,” said JA President Libii Fairhead.
Fairhead, who is in her fourth year of service with JA, also had an early encounter with the organization that made her want to get involved.

“A passion to help others started for me around the age of 5,” said Fairhead. “My parents are the influence that drives me. In the 6th grade, a group of ladies assisted at my school with a pig dissection; it was game-on from there. JA prepares all children for a better life. How could you not want to be a part of that?”

“Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro only has one fundraiser a year to provide the means for our 12 projects,” added Heringer. “The only way we are able to fund these projects is through Charity Ball; we are fortunate enough to have so much support from the community that we are able to do that. Other Junior Auxiliary chapters have to put on several fundraisers a year to meet their organizations’ needs. We never want to turn down a school or a family in need who calls in because we don’t have the means to do so. This is why we need the support of the community – the money raised goes back into helping others in need locally.”

The 45th annual Charity Ball, “Sparkling Snowflakes and Ice-Kissed Trees,” will transform the Arkansas State University Convocation Center into a winter wonderland on Feb. 20. Guests will enjoy a sit-down meal, music by Al Paris and the Hearbreakers and a live auction with items such as a helicopter hog hunting adventure, an Alaskan glacier cruise, a Disney World vacation and a Chanel bag. The 2016 Charity Ball will also feature an extensive silent auction with a new process to make bidding easier than ever.

“I am really excited that along with our online auction, we are taking online ticket sales through our new software, Greater Giving,” said Heringer. “Last year the ladies of Junior Auxiliary put 2,158 hours into making Charity Ball happen. Greater Giving is going to allow us to streamline a lot of our behind-the-scenes work and make us more efficient as an organization. We have the capability of not only saving time but raising more money through this program. We know of other organizations in town that use the same software and have had great success with it.”

The 45th annual Charity Ball will be held on Feb. 20 at Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center. Cocktail hour and the silent auction will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and the live auction at 7 p.m. and dancing until midnight. Attire is black-tie optional. For more information, to purchase tickets or to bid on silent auction items, visit jajonesboro.org or email rsvp.jajonesboro@gmail.com.