Monticello service organization celebrates national JA week
Generations of Monticellonians have been helped by an organization deservedly in the spotlight this week. April 3-7 is National Junior Auxiliary Week.
The Junior Auxiliary of Monticello, a nonprofi t organization now in its 79th year, is celebrating along with other clubs around the state and nation. The Arkansas House of Representatives recently recognized the work of JA chapters in The Natural State by proclaiming Monday as Arkansas Junior Auxiliary Day.
“The Junior Auxiliary of Monticello would like to thank Drew County, our corporate sponsors and local businesses for their support and contributions throughout the year that go toward funding service projects that help better the lives of the children of Drew County,” current local JA chapter president Callie Witcher said. “Our purpose is to render charitable services which are benefi - cial to the general public, with an emphasis on local children.”
With a present chapter roster of 35 active members, 10 associate members and 110 life members, JA of Monticello has been doing just that for decades. The local chapter was fi rst organized in December 1938 as the Junior Service League.
“Junior Services League was fi rst formed to help children in need,” Witcher noted. “Their first service project was to provide milk to 50 school children and, through records after three months, it was shown that these children improved in their school work, appearance, muscle tone and weight.
“Later, through continual services from members, fundraising and donations making these projects possible, the Junior Service League grew to make positive changes for numerous children’s lives.”
In 1945, the National Association of Junior Auxiliary extended an invitation to the local Junior Service League chapter to join forces with them and JA of Monticello was born. Last year, the members of the local JA chapter, along with eight provisional members (who will become active in May), volunteered more than 2,000 hours and served more than 1,500 Drew County children and families in 14 charitable service areas.
Most members are working women in the community. There are a few stay-at-home mothers or women who are self-employed. The only requirements for membership is that a prospective participant be at least 21 years of age and have been a Drew County resident for at least one year—and, of course, possess an overwhelming desire to help the area’s children.
The charitable services JA of Monticello provides to the area are:
- Swimming lessons—These services are offered every summer for all ages, now at the Dr. Tim Chase Pool in McCloy Park. This year will be the 71st season for such instruction.
- Backpacks for Kids—This service provides backpacks and supplies to start the new Kindergarten through fi fth grade in the Monticello and Drew Central schools districts.
- Christmas boxes—This service provides children with needed items and desired Christmas presents written on their lists to Santa. In 2016, JA of Monticello was able to help 188 children.
- Toy drive—This service collects toys donated by the community and local businesses for the Christmas Box project.
- Character contest—This service is a coloring contest in which children illustrate ways to help their community. The winner receives a Wal-Mart gift card.
- Royal Readers—This service provides a book and bookmark to every child in Kindergarten through third grade in Monticello and Drew Central school districts.
- Read with Me—The service provides an opportunity for JA members to spend one-on-one time while reading with children at the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children in Monticello.
- Market in the Park—This service provides snacks, drinks and educational crafts and activities for children attending the Monticello- Drew County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Market in the Park each spring and summer.
- Movie night—This service provides a movie-like experience for children at the Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home in Monticello. This year, “The Good Dinosaur” was the movie selection and members served hot dogs, nachos, candy, pickles and drinks.
- Bowling night—This service provides a night of bowling, food and fun for the Baptist Home children.
- Say Yes to the Dress—This provisional (an incoming new member) project provides a free prom dress and accessories to any girl attending proms in the area. There are also drawings for prizes like a manicure, a photography session and a free hair style. During the last prom season, girls had more than 500 dresses from which to choose.
- Sunshine family—This service provides monthly gifts to a family that may be going through a diffi - cult time.
- Spa baskets—This service supplies baskets full of prom and grooming essentials to the Baptist and Presbyterian homes’ teens attending proms.
- Niki Griffith Morgan Barnes Scholarship—This service provides a $1,000 scholarship to one student upon application. This scholarship is named after longtime member and past president Niki Griffi th Morgan Barnes.
“The National Junior Auxiliary slogan is ‘Care Today-Character Tomorrow,’ and Junior Auxiliary of Monticello recognizes the fact that they would not be able to hold true to that slogan without the support of their community,” Witcher said.
To that end, at 6 p.m. Friday, JA of Monticello will be hosting its annual Krawfi sh 4 Kids fundraiser at the Monticello Country Club. Witcher said the group is planning for a large turnout, as usual.
“This is our largest fundraiser that brings together Southeast Arkansans of all ages for a delicious meal, music, raffl es and live auction—all in support of the underserved Drew County children and their families,” Witcher noted. “You can purchase a ticket for all-you-can-eat crawfi sh from any Junior Auxiliary member for $25, or pay $30 at the door. We’d love to see you there.”
For more information about JA of Monticello or about any of the services the local chapter provides, contact Witcher at 501-554-9213.