"Unlocking the door to a brighter future" was the theme of the 2011 Annual Education Conference of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA). Seven members of Junior Auxiliary of McMinnville joined over 600 women representing the 101 chapters of NAJA for the 70th annual meeting of the club in Memphis.
Junior Auxiliary is a national non-profit organization that encourages members to render charitable services which are beneficial to the general public with particular emphasis on children. Junior Auxiliary of McMinnville was founded in 1979 by a group of caring enthusiastic women and was chartered as a chapter of NAJA in 1982. The group continues to grow and thrive in Warren County with a membership boasting over 100 active, associate and life members. Members volunteer their time throughout the year on a variety of projects that focus on local children and families in need.
The 2011 AEC was packed with entertaining and educational workshops and sessions as well as opportunities to network with other chapters. Members attended special sessions led by a lineup of outstanding speakers.
Sam Haskell, III opened the conference. Haskell was named "One of the 25 Most Innovative and Influential People in Television of the Last 25 Years," and inspired JA members with tales of faith, hope and character in his journey from a small town Mississippi boy through his days as an agent and dealmaker in Hollywood.
A crowd favorite returning to AEC was Julia V. Taylor, a professional school counselor from Raleigh, N.C. Julia educated JA members about understanding the role of media in society as it relates to body image and self confidence for young people.
Josh Gunderson, known for his work as a stand-up comedian and award-winning speaker, presented a program titled "Hooked on Facebook." Gunderson gave real-world advice and provided members with a highly entertaining and energetic tour of the World Wide Web, discussing the pros and cons of the social networking sites. Topics covered were sexting, cyber bullying, identity theft, cyber scams and more.
Final keynote speaker of the weekend, Barbie Bassett shared her light-hearted fun and humble spirit as she presented, "Five Keys to Weathering the Storms of Life." Bassett is Mississippi's first chief meteorologist serving in the role at WLBT-3 TV in Jackson, Miss.
The position of chapter president was passed from Stephanie Ward to Cole Black during a ceremony and awards banquet on the final night of the conference.
"Each year our members leave AEC feeling reinvigorated and inspired to come back home and continue our service in the community. We're reminded why we became members of JA in the first place," said outgoing JA of McMinnville president Stephanie Ward, "It was definitely a fun trip for our members. Memphis is a great city and we really enjoyed our time there."
Community service projects supported by Junior Auxiliary of McMinnville include Coats for the Community, the Yankee Doodle Children's Parade, and Pencil Pals, just to name a few. For more information about the club and any of its projects visit www.jaofmcminnville.blogspot.com or visit their Facebook page.