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Junior League ball pays for several area charities
Local civic representatives compete to raise cash, earn title
1204Belles-Suzanne Zoller
Zoller

57th annual Charity Ball

Annual event sponsored by the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 13

Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville

How much: $125 per couple, $75 for an individual; cash bar

More info: 770-535-1951

Local nonprofit groups like Sonrise Camp wait anxiously each year to see if their grant will be fulfilled by fundraising efforts from the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County.

For Janice Gardner, director at Sonrise Camp, the league provides needed funds at her camp, which offers nondenominational Christian activities for youth, senior citizens and challenged individuals.

"I can’t even emphasize enough how much the league has meant to Sonrise Camp," said Gardner, who has received around $70,000 in donations from the Junior League. "They’ve been there from the very first and I’ve received grants that have helped us get to where we are today. We received their signature grant a couple years ago of $50,000."

Gardner added that the Junior League also has given money to buy therapeutic equipment, sponsor children and was a part in building the Sensory Integration Trail at the camp.

"They have a volunteer program for new members and every summer we have them come out and help with camps and those are the easiest weeks," Gardner said. "They are smart, young women with energy. I can’t say enough about how important they are to this community."

The Junior League raises funds for local agencies through several fundraising events, the next being the Charity Ball.

Last year the league donated needed funds to 36 local agencies, according to Robyn Lynch, president-elect of the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County. But this year the league plans on distributing the money differently.

"This year we are looking to give larger amounts to fewer agencies," she said. "We think that some of these agencies would be better served if they were able to receive larger funding. We are really going to review our grant process and really give it to those organizations that are in need the most and fit the Junior Leagues’ mission of service to women and children in Hall County."

Charity Ball incorporates the mission of the league but also has an added element of tapping a Belle of the Ball. The young women are sponsored by local community service organizations and their goal is to raise money for the ball.

The woman who raises the most money is tapped Belle of the Ball.

"It’s real exciting to see young people appreciate the service organizations in the community and really get out there and volunteer their time to raise that money," Lynch said.

Belle candidates this year are Savannah Hodge, representing the Rotary Club of Gainesville; Rachel Bond, representing the Evening Optimist Club of Gainesville; Emilie Norton, representing the Gainesville Jaycees; Suzanne Zoller, representing the Lanierland Civitan Club; Ashton Blackwood, representing the South Hall Rotary Club; and Mary London Carswell, representing the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville.

The Belle of the Ball will be announced at 10 p.m. on the night of Charity Ball.

This year, because of the downturn in the economy, the league has decided to make the Charity Ball theme a "black and white" formal.

"With all that is going on in our world and with our economy we figured everybody has a simple black dress hanging in their closet," said Staci Vinton, co-chairwoman of Charity Ball. "So we didn’t want people to think they had to go out and buy new things to come to Charity Ball. Our food kind of goes along with that; we’re going to have a black and white bow tie lobster pasta, we’re going to have two different dessert stations. One is going to be a chocolate fondue and we are going to have a dark chocolate and a white chocolate."

Vinton said the league always gets compliments on the selection of food at the event.

"We have a ton of food and lots of things to choose from," Vinton said. "This year we have narrowed it down and we are going to have an Asian menu on one side — that is going to have everything from pan-fried dumplings to stir fry.

"We’re also having an ice cream sundae section and it’s going to feature the 1980s candies, like Nerds and Pop Rocks and all those fun things."

A 1980s theme will underline the black and white theme with an ’80s cover band, The Breakfast Club.

"We’re having an ’80s reunion from 8 to 9 p.m. and we’re encouraging anyone that was a member of the Junior League in the 1980s, or a belle candidate or a belle of the ball in the ’80s, to be there," Vinton said. "With heavy hors d’oeuvres with a signature drink during that time."

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