JA of Columbus preserves history with donation to library

April 13, 2013 9:34:55 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Junior Auxiliary of Columbus celebrated seven decades of service to children in Lowndes County, and honored the memory of a revered life member, during National Junior Auxiliary Week April 7-13.  


"The chapter chose this special week to donate some of the organization's significant artifacts to the collection at the library, enabling public access to them as well as providing a permanent home," said Chapter President Londa LeBrun. 


Among records gifted to the library archives are JA Pilgrimage Ball programs and playbills dating back to 1951.  


Annual Pilgrimage Ball plays featured community-wide casts and focused on interesting elements of Columbus' history, such as storied Friendship Cemetery, the founding of the Frank Phillips YMCA, and the advent of what would become Mississippi University for Women. 


"It was the great desire of the late Mrs. Eleanor Slaughter, one of the Columbus chapter's early members and staunchest supporters, that these irreplaceable records be preserved," said LeBrun. Slaughter, a past president of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA), had personally stored a great many of the playbills. She passed away in Columbus March 22. 


Also included in the donation are annual reports submitted by the Columbus chapter to NAJA. These documents detail JA service projects for Lowndes County children for the past 70 years. 


Cindy Rood is a life member of JA of Columbus and a past president of the national association. She very recently rotated off the NAJA Foundation Board. 


"This is very valuable and noteworthy information that doesn't need to be lost," she said. "There are so many important local programs that were initially started by JA and then given over to other agencies to maintain."  


One of those is Camp Rising Sun, a summer camp for children diagnosed with cancer; it now has its own organization and board. Other early projects included school courses for developmentally disabled students, drug and alcohol education initiatives eventually adopted by schools, and the Officer Friendly program ultimately incorporated by the Columbus Police Department. Trained JA volunteers also worked with Mississippi University for Women in their speech, language and hearing programs. The chapter initiated a gifted program at MUW that laid the groundwork for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Rood shared. 


JA of Columbus, founded in 1943, currently presents eight service projects for children, from providing school uniforms to students in need to conducting health and fitness education in local schools.  


For more information about JA's work, call 662-327-6010 or visit jacolumbus.org.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.