November 14, 2020 6:38:09 PM
The decision was a hard one, but Junior Auxiliary of Columbus has announced cancellation of its spring 2021 Charity Ball. Uncertainty surrounding progress against COVID-19 compelled the nonprofit chapter to make the call on the 71st annual event. The JA celebration entails intense pre-planning and traditionally fills Trotter Convention Center to capacity. This past spring's 2020 Charity Ball was also sidelined by the global pandemic.
"This difficult decision was made after months of discussion and consideration," said JA of Columbus President Carrie Martin. "Canceling the Charity Ball in advance ensures us enough time to plan a safe and considerate way to honor our king, queen and the court."
Ball Chair Meryl Fisackerly added, "We had to think long and hard about this, but unfortunately, given the pandemic, we felt it was in the best interest of the community that we not hold a large event. By making this decision early we'll still be able to, in a safe and effective way, honor royalty and the court with a smaller event."
Junior Auxiliary carries out multiple service projects year-round to benefit local children. They include clothing children in need, which the chapter has done for decades, and one of JA's newer projects, Feed to Succeed. The effort provides backpacks of food each week to children who may not get enough to eat at home on weekends.
Some service work has adapted to current changes in local schools. In response to the pandemic, JA of Columbus partnered this fall with the Columbus Arts Council to develop Art Reach, providing individual art and school supply boxes to more than 1,500 elementary school students in Columbus, ensuring children did not have to share supplies.
A Pen Pals project pairs members and students in an exchange of letters, promoting literacy, encouragement and social interaction. The new S.T.A.R.S. Initiative -- Students Talking and Rehearsing for Success -- helps junior and senior high school students prepare for interviews for scholarships, college and jobs in a virtual format.
Although the ball will not be held next spring, the chapter will move forward with its annual Report to the Community, published by The Dispatch, and appreciation to sponsors who make the service work possible.
Martin remarked, "While we certainly want to honor traditions, we also don't want to lose sight of Junior Auxiliary's goal, which is to serve the children of Lowndes County."
Fisackerly said, "We anticipate that in 2022 we'll be able to have our typical Charity Ball event, but for the time being we really just want everybody in our community to be safe."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.