By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
Whether its hosting a chamber coffee, as they did earlier this week, or bringing the magic of bubbles to events like the Hope Watermelon Festival, the Hempstead County Jr. Auxiliary seeks to help children and make a positive difference in their lives.
For the past few years, the local service chapter, known locally by many as the Hempstead JAs, have hosted a Chamber community coffee in March in front of their slate of spring and summer service events. The group was represented Wednesday at the Chamber by six of their 29 members, and locally, they will soon be celebrating 50 years as a local chapter.
Locally, the JAs are most visible — and well-known — for their annual “Magic Bubbles” at high profile occasions like the upcoming Train Day event and the Hope Watermelon Festival fascinating young kids and parents with the making of giant bubbles.
With Easter coming in late April this year, the Hempstead JAs have also sponsored an annual Easter egg hunt at the UAHT walking track as well as a Color Fun Run for kids.
In addition to Train Day and “Magic Bubbles” in May, the Hempstead County JAs have a full schedule of appearances and projects. In June, they will also host the Farmer’s Market hospitality table, and in August, they will again have “Magic Bubbles” at the Watermelon Festival.
Later in August, they will be at the annual Hope Health Expo to provide ID information and current picture of child to parents, and in October, they will return to downtown Hope doing “Trunk or Treat” during Halloween activities.
Other activities of the Hempstead County Jr. Auxiliary chapter include:
• Christmas/Fair Parade in December
• Breakfast with Santa with the Hope Downtown Network, also in December
• Hempstead County Spelling Bee in January, providing cookies and drinks
• Sweet Reads/Book Drive in February
• Glass Slipper during the Spring, providing all prom needs for a selected student of Hempstead County and their date.
• Canned Food Drive for Hope In Action
• Service Welfare, providing one or more basic necessities to children while maintaining an ongoing relationship between chapter and recipients.
Junior Auxiliary members each give at least five-and-a-half years of service to their community through their Chapter. Annually, each member serves at least 24 hours and receives a minimum of 12 hours in education with the goal of being a better volunteer.
Nationally, the local Hempstead County chapter is one of 93 chapters spread out in the southern United States including Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee as part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries.
The first documented JA group of women performing community service projects occurred in Greenville, Mississippi in 1935, when then-Society Editor of the Delta Democrat Louise Crump and nine other women started meeting to provide social services to underprivileged children.
By 1941, with Crump as the first president, the Junior Auxiliary drew up a constitution, and the first chapters were established in McComb, Greenville, Greenwood, Leland, Laurel, Meridian, Vicksburg and West Point, all in Mississippi, as well as Pine Bluff and Russellville in Arkansas.
According to the chapter’s mission statement, “Junior Auxiliary represents a serious endeavor on the part of women to be active and constructive community participants and to assume leadership roles in meeting community needs. Junior Auxiliary provides the member with the opportunity to serve and to be a vital part of the community.”
The objectives of the national association are to unite in one body all Junior Auxiliary Chapters and members to promote National and individual Chapter purposes, to encourage members to render charitable services which are beneficial to the general public, with particular emphasis on children, and to cooperate with other 501 (c) (3) organizations.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor