Dozens of families in Garland County have received assistance through a particular community service project offered by the Junior Auxiliary of Hot Springs that aims to break cycles of dependency.
The Focus Family project is the local Junior Auxiliary chapter’s custom program designed to provide support for families in need. The Hot Springs chapter celebrated its 60th anniversary last April and typically aids at least one family per year. The National Association of Junior Auxiliaries Inc. celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
NAJA was founded by women to offer means for members to be active and constructive community participants and to assume leadership roles in meeting community needs. Every chapter is required to develop at least one program for child welfare in which the chapter assumes full administrative responsibility.
The designated project must meet two basic requirements. It must provide one or more of the basic necessities of life, which are described as food, clothing, shelter or emotional support. The project must also provide for an ongoing relationship and commitment between the chapter member or members and the beneficiaries.
Junior Auxiliary of Hot Springs currently has about 35 members and six service projects. Each member must accumulate 24 service hours per year through the various projects. The Focus Family committee is one of the chapter’s smallest groups.
The committee is currently chaired by Jennifer Dale and Heather Murphy. Other members are Lauren Jenkins and Mellisa Bryan, the chapter’s first vice president. Jordan Horner serves as chapter president. Bryan will become president May 1 at the end of the current Junior Auxiliary fiscal year.
“Serving on our Focus Family committee has been a great learning experience,” Bryan said. “We don’t have enough in our budget to cover our current family’s expenses. We cover what we can financially, but also help plug this family into other organizations that can help, St. Luke’s utility bill program, the All Created Equal closet at Lakeside School District and reach out to members to help in different areas. We are able to have some life skills conversations and really meet needs beyond what we thought we could.”
Names of those assisted through the project are kept confidential. All communication between the family and chapter is handled by the committee members.
“I think the women do a phenomenal job,” said Dana Hansen, who chairs the committee for the Special Needs project. “I know that people have been left in a better place, for sure.”
Junior Auxiliary chooses one family per year to help. The group often provides financial assistance for living costs and connections to other services, such as legal aid, child care and food programs. Resources can also be directed to purchase items for the family, such as clothing, appliances, furniture and holiday gifts.
“It’s basically what they need at that given time to get them over the hump,” Hansen said. “We do have a budget for it. The finance part of the budget is spent on if they need emergencies, clothing, diapers, furniture, deposits, etc. We bought a little car before to give them safe ways to drive back and forth. The budget is strictly submitted at the committee’s dis- cretion.”
Members, community members and other acquaintances alert the chapter to families in need in the community. Recipients tend to be single mothers, but any family with children is eligible to receive assistance. Recommendations can be emailed to info@jaofhotsprings. com.
Families are contacted and can fill out an application to determine if they are eligible to receive assistance through the project. The general membership is never told the names of the family members. Members are only alerted to the needs of the family as they arise and the committee’s reports. The chapter allocates a budget for the program each year.
“They do what they can with that and then they call on members if they need something we have,” Hansen said. “Members donate and contribute too above and beyond the budget.”
Junior Auxiliary can work with one family for shorter or longer than one year. Hansen said some families only needed help for several months until they were able to move past their stage of dependency. Others continued to receive aid beyond the standard yearlong period.
Full administrative responsibility allows the chapter to initiate and implement the project. Chapters are allowed to independently determine whether to continue or terminate the projects.
The chapter’s other service projects include Fun Day at Family Farm for physically and mentally challenged students, Looking Into Future Endeavors life skills classes for Garland County teenage students in the foster care system, $8,000 annually awarded through scholarships for graduating high school seniors and students al- ready enrolled in college, a School Outreach Committee to aid parent centers and campuses in each Garland County school district and the Special Needs project, which provides for the needs of local nonprofit organizations.
The annual cost of Junior Auxiliary membership is $95. The chapter holds a membership drive each spring to inform prospective members of a special informational meeting in the summer.
“During the new member drive/ information meeting, I was able to really learn about the different proj- ects Junior Auxiliary supported,” Bryan said. “I fell in love with being so directly involved with children in our community. We aren’t raising money to send off to some national fund. We are literally working for the kids of Garland County.”
The chapter’s only annual fund- raiser was held Jan. 18 at the Hamp Williams Building on 510 Ouachita Ave. “Prohibition 2017” had a 1920s theme and activities, games and treats for more than 350 guests in attendance. The event has more than doubled in size since it debuted in 2015.