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‘Care Today, Character Tomorrow’: Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven celebrates 60 years

PHOTO SUBMITTED / In 1968 Junior Auxiliary volunteers were busy making sure everyone was vaccinated for measles. A picture in the Leader-Advertiser - a predecessor of The Daily Leader - shows Howard Boone, public health adviser with the Mississippi State Board of Health, injecting Mrs. Russell Burns with a new jet injector instrument used in administering the measles vaccine. Other JAs pictured are Mrs. Clark Arrington (center) and Mrs. Jerald Nations.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / In 1968 Junior Auxiliary volunteers were busy making sure everyone was vaccinated for measles. A picture in the Leader-Advertiser – a predecessor of The Daily Leader – shows Howard Boone, public health adviser with the Mississippi State Board of Health, injecting Mrs. Russell Burns with a new jet injector instrument used in administering the measles vaccine. Other JAs pictured are Mrs. Clark Arrington (center) and Mrs. Jerald Nations.

The Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven is celebrating 60 years of serving the greater good this April.

The club known for promoting good health and being soldiers of child welfare was chartered in July 1954 in the home of Mrs. Eugene A. Nalty on West Chippewa Street. Among those present were founding members, Miriam Smith, Dott Cannon and Betty Perkins who continue to inspire women to be active in their community through the Junior Auxiliary’s many service projects.

The club’s symbol is a golden crown with five jeweled points that represent charity, youth, health, leadership and service.

The Golden Crown motto is “Care Today, Character Tomorrow.”

The Brookhaven chapter’s 2014 president Glenda Hux said this motto means taking action on behalf of children’s welfare and being a positive influence so they might live to their fullest potential.

“It means there’s no time like the present to assume personal responsibility in caring for our children and our community,” Hux said. “To be present in their lives, to invest time in causes that would assist them in making good life choices, to create opportunities for building character and good stewardship so our children eventually grow to be productive citizens.”

The Junior Auxiliary has a reputation for developing child welfare and mentoring programs that bring awareness of issues and help bring about needed change in the community. Hux said that the accomplishments of the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven are outstanding and have impressed her with how hard the members have worked.

“One of the reasons I’m so humbled by the work Junior Auxiliary has done throughout the last 60 years,” she said, “is realizing the extent to which our organization has made it possible for all of us to enjoy the safe comforts we find in Brookhaven.

“The theme has been the same throughout the years – health initiatives, literacy initiatives, mentoring programs, Christmas projects, care for the infirm and other special populations. As an occupational therapist, I chose to come back to Brookhaven after college to make it my home, but the road that created the opportunities to make that possible was paved by many JA members long before me.”

Hux said she remembered being acquainted with JA as a teenager during a “Peel ‘Em and Eat ‘Em Shrimp Dinner” fundraiser – the group’s only fundraiser each year – and recalls how much she was impressed by them back then. And, when she moved back to Brookhaven after college she met women like Becky Corkern, Cathy Ditcharo and Celine Craig. She said it wasn’t hard to make the decision to serve.

“I guess watching them work tirelessly for the betterment of our community during those days influenced my decision when the time came for me to serve,” Hux said. “They never knew that they had influenced me from afar.”

The Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven made it possible for the first special education teacher in the state to be certified by the Mississippi Department of Education, Hux explained.

“Before it was funded by the state,” she said, “they supported the cause financially for many years, as well as the introduction of speech language pathologists into the local school systems, lobbied for funding towards gifted classes and a gifted curriculum.”

They also held Special Olympics at the local high school for many years, celebrated E.S.P. or “Extra Special People” Day at the Exchange Club Park, assisted families with respite care for children with disabilities, promoted literacy in the schools, implemented Brookhaven Against Drugs or B.A.D. and other projects to inspire teens to make good life choices.

For today’s youth in 2014, the One-to-One mentoring program was started. Each member is paired with a student that they will spend time with and be available to for life’s big questions, Hux explained.

“We try to pair them with the right personalities,” Hux said. For example, Hux said she used to be a very shy teenager, and the student she is paired with is having some of the same difficulties.

A mentoring program that began in the early 1990s was the RAP Team. Members spoke to more than 1,800 teens in junior and senior high school classes about teen pregnancy, birth control, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Most people are familiar with the JA’s Wish Tree project that provides local families with Christmas gifts. Its goal is to make sure every child has a gift under the tree from Santa.

The chapter has also held numerous health seminars and workshops for the public on the risks of skin cancer and obesity.

Among local youth, they promote excellence in academics, good self-esteem, physical activity, and anti-bullying. This year’s health project has been the Healthy You Health Fair.

“We held the Health Fair at all of the area schools,” Hux said. “We have several members who are nurses, and they went in to check vitals and talk to students about good health choices.”

They have a very popular program for ninth-graders each year called Reality World that helps students put into perspective the results of getting a good education and how that equates to getting into a good career that pays well.

The members also serve as role models for future community volunteers to teenage girls in the Crown Club service project as well as sponsoring local arts and civic programs.

The Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven is part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries and has been recognized with many awards throughout the years for their service projects.

Among their National Junior awards are: the Martha Wise Award, established in 1970, in 1972 Brookhaven received it for the “Special Education Olympics,” in 2003 for the “Friends of the Park,” in 2007 for “Jump In,” in 2008 for “Online Outlaws: Internet Safety,” in 2009 for “Kid’s Kingdom Restoration,” and in 2012 for “Wish Tree.” They received the Louise E. Crump Award in 1989 for the Jill Stone Scholarship project.

They received the Outstanding Chapter award in 1961, 1969 and 1970, Superior Chapter in 1972, 1973 and 1974 and the Efficiency Award in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992. They received the Award of Excellence, an award established in 1975, in 2001-01 and 2001-02.

The National Junior Auxiliary established the Norma DeLong Education Award in 1993. The Brookhaven group received the award in 1996 for “Living in The Danger Zone,” in 1998 for “RAP Rally: Making a Difference in Our Youth’s Future,” in 2004 for “Remember Your ABC’s,” in 2008 for “Girl Talk,” in 2010 for “Red Asphalt,” and in 2013 for “Life Choices.”

The Crown Club Outstanding Service Project Award was established in 2009. Brookhaven received the award in 2010 for their “Summer Reading Program.”

The national club began recognizing outstanding volunteers in 1996. In 2003 Susanne Britt received the award. In 2005 Shirley Estes received it, the 2007 winner was Patricia Allen and in 2008 Sherra Smith and in 2010 Cathy Moore received the award.

Hux said founding members Miriam Smith, Dott Cannon and Betty Perkins have been inspiring the Brookhaven group of women to action by supporting their endeavors throughout the years. She said many times there are few details publicized about the stories of service these women and other JAs provide because they are doing it for the greater good and not for recognition.

“It would be impossible to list all of the ways in which the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven has served our community for 60 years,” Hux said. “Many times, for confidentiality reasons, a lot of the assistance granted goes on behind the scenes, but we do it and love it just the same.”

The Auxiliary has one fundraiser each year for the many service projects they have year-round. For many years they led efforts with a statewide annual Antique Show and Country Store, and for the last 26 years the Brookhaven group has held the “Peel ‘Em and Eat ‘Em Shrimp Dinner.” The annual fundraiser is vital to club events and projects. Hux explains.

“We realize none of our beloved causes would be possible without the adequate financial support from our fundraiser,” Hux said. “It takes long months of preparation on our part each year, but the support of the community is unbelievable.”

Visit the JAs on Facebook to see latest updates on service projects and some local history.