For almost 35 years, Mistletoe Marketplace, the signature fundraising event of the Junior League of Jackson (JLJ), has been raising money to fund a myriad of projects, all of which benefit children and youth throughout the Jackson community. Today Mistletoe is known as one of the largest fundraisers of its kind in the Southeast, bringing in more than a million dollars annually. These funds, coupled with more than 53,000 volunteer hours, enable the Junior League to fulfill its mission of service.
In 1980, when JLJ began work to determine the direction they would take for their major annual fundraiser, members looked to other successful Leagues around the southeast for ideas. As a result they chose to develop a “Christmas Bazaar” we now know as Mistletoe Marketplace. Well-Being asked Mistletoe Marketplace Chair Lindsay Hamm, what she believes is the secret to Mistletoe’s phenomenal success throughout the years.
“I think it is successful for two main reasons,” notes Hamm. “People love to support our community and they love to shop! Our volunteers who make this event happen spend months pouring their hearts into Mistletoe. The excitement is based in the idea that as volunteers, we are making a tangible contribution through projects we support in the community, and
fulfilling the mission of JLJ to help that community. In addition, our very generous corporate sponsors help us by donating cash and goods to lower our costs so that JLJ can put more back into community projects. Shopping is fun no matter what – but especially when the funds help those who need it most. Our theme this year – Let Your Heart Be Light – sums it up best. What can make you feel better than experiencing the joy of the holiday season at Mistletoe Marketplace, while at the same time getting the opportunity to give to others?
To work the magic of preparing for and pulling off the monumental task of presenting Mistletoe Marketplace, there are 58 full-placed JLJ volunteers. These volunteers each give 50+ hours to plan and execute the event, with the assistance of the active and sustaining members. Whether it’s painting decorations in the summer months leading up to Mistletoe Marketplace, stuffing shopping bags with information, or assisting at one of the many special events, Mistletoe is a team effort.
The JLJ currently has a total of 2,344 members (748 active, 139 provisional, and 1,457 sustaining members). These members log in an annual total of 53,000 volunteer hours, with over 12,000 volunteer hours dedicated to Mistletoe Marketplace alone. Today, more than 85% of JLJ members work outside the home, making this dedication even more impressive. Even with the responsibilities of work, family, and other commitments, these members pull together each year to create a fantastic experience for shoppers, and provide funding to directly benefit Junior League projects throughout the community.
Besides access to over 160 vendors offering treasures for every person on your holiday gift list, over the years Mistletoe has added several special events – from the opening night Preview Gala, two morning brunches, a girls’ night out, a fashion show luncheon, a tween event, and a Friday night band party, to a children’s event and even photos with Santa. Also continuing this year is the third annual Rudolph Race. Held in conjunction with Mistletoe Marketplace, and presented by St. Dominic’s, the Rudolph Race 5K Run and One Mile Fun Run, is a great way to start off your Saturday morning, and runners are invited to continue inside for warmth and shopping after the race!
“Mistletoe Marketplace is more than just an event,” adds Hamm. “It’s a four-day experience that is entrenched in the community JLJ serves. Its success is dependent on shoppers continuing to show up and support us year after year. We appreciate those who have attended in the past, and we welcome them again and invite new shoppers to join us in celebrating this 35th anniversary year. As we say every year, ‘It’s the best Mistletoe Marketplace yet.’ And it always is.”
Date of first Mistletoe Marketplace: November 4-5, 1981
Number of merchants 1981: 30 Number of merchants 2014: 164
Amount raised 1981: $42,000 Amount raised 2014: $1,400,000
Number attending 1981: 7000 Number attending 2014: +35,000
Number of Annual JLJ Volunteer Hours: 53,000
Arts In Motion (AIM) On the Mission First Campus, JL volunteers conduct an arts camp, exposing the children to all types of arts experiences, including crafts, drama and music, to support literacy skills.
Book Buddies In partnership with JPS, volunteers conduct one-on-one reading sessions with Oak Forest Elementary School third-grade students who began the year reading below grade level.
Camp Junior Leadership Jumpstart Partnering with ESF Get2College and Operation Shoestring, JL volunteers provide a week long camp for students from Rowan and Brinkley Middle Schools to increase awareness of the college admission and financial aid processes.
Imagination Celebration JL volunteers conduct a summer camp for selected JPS rising 3rd grade students at the Mississippi Children’s Museum, providing an interactive summer learning experience.
JPS Summer Camp JL volunteers provide enrichment activities for Pecan Park Elementary rising 3rd and 4th grade students that focus on improving literacy and math skills through art, drama, and physical education activities.
Public School Mini-Grants In partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and JPS Partners in Education, volunteers evaluate grant proposals and award grants to teachers in elementary, middle, and high school to enhance, enrich, and support the JPS educational curriculum.
The Language of Art JL works with the teachers at Magnolia Speech School to create an enriching art experience, using a variety of materials and methods to teach phonological awareness and vocabulary development.
Health Team Volunteers encourage families to make safe and healthy life choices, with projects ranging from teaching children and parents about nutrition to caring for critically ill premature babies.
McClean Fletcher Grief Support Center Professionals from the Center train JL volunteers to assist in providing grief support to families who have experienced the death of a significant person in their lives.
Mid-town Backpack Program The JL partners with the MS Food Network to provide 150 children who attend Brown and Johnson Elementary Schools backpacks filled with nutritious food to take home each weekend for 34 weeks.
Recreation, Enrichment and Assistance for Children’s Health (REACH) REACH Night volunteers staff the 3rd and 4th floor playrooms at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.
Rockin’ Mamas JL volunteers rock and stimulate infants in the Newborn ICU at Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants at UMMC. Now in its 36th year, this project ensures that infants are rocked, nurtured and given interactive attention seven days a week.
Time for Two Volunteers, in collaboration with the Education Services Foundation, work with young women at the Methodist Children’s Home to provide monthly parenting workshops on college admission, financial aid, careers, and the realities of life as a working mother.
Wholesome and Healthy JL volunteers develop an engaging curriculum to encourage healthy eating and prevent childhood obesity, by teaching low-income families and children to cook wholesome and affordable meals.
Social and Emotional Wellness Team Social and Emotional Wellness Projects support children and families in the Jackson community by developing problem solving skills and building self-esteem to empower good decision making.
CARES School Merit Store JL volunteers operate a merit-based store at the CARES School operated by Mississippi Children’s Home Services. The store recognizes and rewards students, ages 6 to 18, who are working to achieve individual behavior and therapy goals.
Foster Children Enrichment Project Volunteers provide hands on activities that teach vital life skills for children at Youth Villages. While the children learn about a variety of age-appropriate topics, their foster parents receive support and training from the Villages staff.
GRACE – Girls Rule! Accepting, Caring, Empowering In partnership with the Methodist Children’s Home, volunteers mentor at-risk girls, ages 12 to 18, to build self-esteem, self-respect and values, promote healthy choices, and encourage steps toward independent living.
Helping Hands JL helps fill the volunteer needs of a variety of community partners, by providing help with staffing events, day-to-day operational needs, and extra support for the partners’ existing volunteers and staff.
PALS (Preparing Adolescents for Living Successfully) Mentoring Volunteers provide enrichment and life skills opportunities to the residents of the PALS Transitional Living Group Home to enhance residents’ chances of transitioning successfully to independent living.
Sunshine for Sunnybrook Volunteers transform two cottages at Sunnybrook Children’s Home to reflect the positive, happy, and reassuring setting for children coming from volatile, abusive, and neglectful homes.