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A Place to Play
by Audrey Poff, photography by Cody Moore

A longtime member of Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro and past president of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries was honored last month as local JA members dedicated a playroom in her honor that will benefit children in the foster system for years to come.

The Junior Auxiliary/Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) “Play 4A Day” room was dedicated in honor of Charlott Jones on May 11. The newly-equipped playroom is located on the fourth floor of the Craighead County Courthouse. Play 4A Day is a dedicated space outside courtroom 4A, where foster children can play while they wait for their court case to be heard. The space was designed and implemented by the 2017 provisional class of the Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro.

Jones, a certified public accountant and tax manager at Jones & Company, is a life member of JA of Jonesboro. A member of the 2004 JA provisional class, Jones served the local chapter in various capacities, including the office of treasurer. She recently served as the 2017-2018 NAJA president and is beginning her 10th year of service on the national level as ex-officio. She has previously served as NAJA treasurer (twice), chapter support coordinator and first vice president before becoming president in April 2017.

NAJA consists of more than 90 chapters in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, and beginning this year, Kentucky. The organization represents a serious endeavor on the part of women to be active and constructive community participants and to be a vital part of the community.

“Imagine being a child in the foster care system. You may have been abused or neglected; you’ve been removed from your home and are living with strangers,” a press release from JA stated. “You have to go to this unfamiliar and scary place called ‘court’ with your court-appointed special advocate (CASA), and you have to wait in the hallway, sometimes for hours, until it’s your turn to see the judge. There’s nothing to do to pass the time; you’re confused about why you’re there; you just want to play and be a kid. This play space is for these children, who range in age from infants to teenagers and come from all backgrounds imaginable.”

In the 2nd Judicial District of Arkansas, CASA serves more than 600 foster children in five counties in Northeast Arkansas.

“Through fundraisers, monetary donations and budgeted monies from the Junior Auxiliary board, the provisional class raised more than $1,100 to help fund the project. The Craighead County Courthouse funded the structural aspects of the room, including the glass wall that separates the room from the hallway, some electrical work and the carpeting. Several generous local businesses and individuals donated new or gently used furniture, painting supplies for the walls, toys, books, games, a TV and DVD player, a gaming system and décor to make the space bright and fun. The hope is that Play 4A Day will be a safe, loving space where foster children can enjoy being kids, affording them some joy during an otherwise unpleasant experience,” according to the news release.

Members of the local chapter and then-president Kristy McDaniel surprised Jones with the announcement at the conclusion of NAJA’s Annual Education Conference in Mobile during a reception held in Jones’ honor.

Jones said JA Jonesboro dedicated the playroom in her honor to commemorate her service to the organization.

“The fact that the playroom will serve children in the area is what makes it so special to me,” said Jones. “Children hold a special place in my heart. I don’t have any children of my own, but a lot of my work in the community has revolved around children. They are our future. We have to take care of them. They are just so near and dear to my heart that I was just totally speechless when they told me.”

The mission of the Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro is to meet the needs of children, youth and families throughout Craighead County to help ensure that the future is bright. JA of Jonesboro looks for ways to improve the lives of Craighead County children by developing and implementing programs that instill self-esteem and challenge minds.

For more information about Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro, visit jajonesboro.org.