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The annual JA shrimp dinner returns

The Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven’s Annual Peel ‘Em and Eat ‘Em shrimp dinner is back in town and filling the Brookhaven Recreation Department with the smells of shrimp, potato salad and sounds from today’s top radio hits.

Inspecting and separating the food into appropriate sized portions along to the music are twenty volunteers, all members of the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven. The plates that these women are preparing will include shrimp, corn, Texas Toast, butter, cocktail sauce and potato salad; all provided by K and B Seafood. With this dinner being the 27th annual hosting in the JA’s sixty years of operation, the Peel ‘Em and Eat ‘Em shrimp dinner is the sole fundraising project for the whole year.

“Because this is our only fundraising activity, we are so thankful for the community’s support and business,” Juliana Adams, who serves as the PR chair for the organization, said.

The annual shrimp dinner and donations from organizations and citizens fund all of the services that the JA of Brookhaven provides to the community.

“We service children with reading assistance. We provide clothing assistance in all the area schools, both private and public. We also give out $5,000 in scholarships a year to help Lincoln County students continue their education after high school,” Valarie Oglesby said, describing only a few of the services that the Junior Auxiliary provides.

Oglesby also shares that the organization is looking forward to hosting its annual Wish Tree program, which helps approximately 365 children and over 100 families a year around the winter season. Wish Trees will be stationed at both Piggly Wigglys, J. Allen’s and King’s Daughters Medical Center.

Starting this year, the JA will offer sibling adoptions as well as individual child adoptions. There will be a table at the shrimp pickup today for people who want more information about the Wish Tree program or want to adopt a child or group of siblings.

At the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven, everything is all about the children and it shows. Kelly Cruthirds, a sixth-year member of the organization said that her two years spent with the JA reading program, EARS, was one of the best things she’s ever done.

“I don’t see how you can’t be blessed by seeing children grow as a reader,” Cruthirds said.

Cruthirds and other volunteers attest to the impact the Junior Auxiliary’s services has had on Brookhaven as well as themselves.

“Most people think we’re some kind of social club but it’s not; it’s a work club,” Oglesby said.

With approximately 35 members who are entirely volunteers working to provide assistance to hundreds of children and their families a year, the organization has its share of work to do in Brookhaven.

“We’ve had some struggles and issues, but we’ve always come together as a group to get things done. We usually always have someone come in who wants to help even if they aren’t on the committee that is tasked with handling an event or program,” Cruthirds, said.

For those who are interested in joining the group, the JA of Brookhaven will start its recruitment process in January; prospective members must first, and most importantly, be Lincoln County residents.

Until then Brookhaven residents and any one else interested in supporting the JA of Brookhaven are encouraged to show their support by purchasing tickets for a shrimp dinner, and donating to any one of the Junior Auxiliary’s other programs. A limited amount of ‘first come, first serve’ tickets for plates will be available at the door. Tickets are fifteen dollars. For those who have already purchased tickets, plates will be available for pickup today from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Brookhaven Recreation Department. For those with a sweet tooth, the JA will simultaneously host a Sweet Shoppe Bake Sale.

To show support any time of the year to the women of the JA of Brookhaven, the children and families they help, and for the city of Brookhaven, donations can be sent to P. O. Box 169, Brookhaven, MS 39602.