Dedicated Hearts and Hands—Laurie Jugan, President, and Stephanie Hoppmeyer, Past President—Junior Auxiliary of Slidell
Nearly half A century ago, 15 women in the Slidell community came together with one common goal—to make their community a better place to live.
Their meeting with a representative from the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA) proved to be fruitful, and by early 1966, the Junior Auxiliary of Slidell (JAS) was officially set into motion. Today, the JAS has 49 members “from all walks of life,” notes current JAS President Laurie Jugan.
“Their ages range from young women in their twenties, to women with grown children like me.”
The JAS chooses projects each year based on community deficits. “We identify needs within the community in areas of health, welfare, education and culture, and we build a project around a specific solution to fill that need,” says Past President Stephanie Hoppmeyer. “From there, we attempt to find sponsors to help us fund our projects, and then we—the members—bring the projects to life.” Projects such as: A Day For Girl’s Health; College Bound Scholarships; Literacy Liaisons; JA Water Day; and Groovin’ Snacks/Movin’ Kids are just a snapshot of what JAS does for the communities of Slidell, Pearl River and Lacombe. “Chances are, your child has been the beneficiary of one of our service projects through some capacity over the years,” Stephanie says.Junior Auxiliary of Slidell
Members are required to provide at least 60 volunteer hours per year to fulfill their membership obligation and are hands-on participants in the service projects they provide. “In one project, Providing C.A.S.H. (College and Scholarship Assistance), in which we work with one of the local public high schools to identify scholarships and various ways students can pay for college, we worked with a young woman living on her own and working three jobs to make ends meet,” Laurie remembers. “These children are generally fine academically, but financially they are considered at risk. We helped this young lady through a national scholarship application. In the end she was awarded a $20,000 scholarship, a trip to Washington D.C., provided legislative mentors, and, I am happy to say, she is well on her way to success.”
An annual event, A Day For Girl’s Health, gives young ladies in junior high and high school the chance to gain insight about everything pertaining to women’s health. “We partner with Slidell Memorial Hospital, one of our essential corporate sponsors, to provide a full day of learning about everything from eye health, to questions about their feminine health, to fashion and fitness,” Stephanie says. This year’s event will be held on March 9, 2013. “Doctors, health and fitness professionals, makeup artists, hairstylists and vendors from throughout the area provide these young ladies with essential information to make informed decisions about their lives and health. JAS actives and Life and Associates donate their time, and there are countless giveaways, door prizes and the event culminates with a fashion show.”
Literacy Liaisons provides hands-on education to local school children. “Volunteers spend their free time working with local students from kindergarten through high school as Literacy Liaisons,” Stephanie says. “These women provide help to children who need to round out their academic experience with that extra layer of help.” Projects like JA Water Day and Groovin’ Snacks/Movin’ Kids involve real-time health education for young students and teach them the importance of nutrition, hydration and fitness, with the use of water play and demonstrations. Practical, applicable tips for everyday life are woven in to each educational presentation by JAS volunteers.
Both Laurie and Stephanie stress the importance of donations from corporate sponsors and private benefactors. Without their support, JAS would not be able to fund its community service projects. An anonymous donor was so moved after reading about the Hearts United family on the JAS Facebook blog, that they donated $1000. This money helped make “the best Christmas ever” for a single mother and her five children. “It really is that simple,” Laurie says. “All money from corporate sponsors goes directly to our service projects, and in turn directly to the beneficiaries who are all of our children.” With up to ten projects per year, funding for JAS is essential to maintain and exceed the support they provide.
At different stages in their lives, Laurie and Stephanie joined JAS as a way to give back to their community. “I had always been active in what my children were doing, and I saw that opportunity ending. I felt that this would be a good way to transition into a new role with a new sense of purpose,” Laurie remembers. “What I have gained as a member since 2008, is the opportunity to meet like-minded women and develop life-long friendships, and a strong sisterhood.” Stephanie, a mother of four with a teenager still at home, was determined to give back to her childhood community. “I was raised here in the New Orleans area, I have a business here, and I have a family of my own here now,” she says. “After joining JAS, I soon discovered that, not only was I giving back to my community, my community was also giving back to me.”
With decades of history behind their name, the JAS has won countless awards from the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries including the 2012 Award of Excellence (the highest award given to a chapter). Slidell was one of only two chapters to earn this award in 2012. JAS transforms the lives of those it serves in the Slidell community as well as the members who serve them. “My hope is that we will continue to see the organization grow and we will continue to see women from all pockets of the community,” says Laurie. “This is the place where you come to give back, and as a bonus, it gives back to you,” says Stephanie. “I have a very strong love for this wonderful organization.”