Jones Center gala features ‘Big Apple’ experiences

story and photos by Debbie Miller, special to The City Wire

A gala to help provide money for the future of The Jones Center’s operations and programs included an announcement about a gift that will allow researchers to study the past.

Archie Schaffer III of The Jones Trust board announced Saturday (Nov. 9) that the Harvey and Bernice Jones Special Collection of personal and corporate memorabilia has been given to the University of Arkansas Libraries’ Special Collections Department.

The donation was revealed during a reception for guests at Big Night, an annual fundraising gala for The Jones Center. This year’s goal was to raise $150,000 for operations and programs.

The event was held for the first time inside the center, which was transformed to mimic the sights, sounds and experiences of a night in the Big Apple. A New York City-inspired sweets shop overlooked The Jones Center’s pool. In another space, “Central Park,” complete with food vendors and a Soho shopping experience greeted guests. Those dining at “Mario’s” — a posh restaurant featuring the creations of Tyson Corporate Executive Chef Mario Valdovino and his culinary team — were within a few paces of a window overlooking the basketball court and indoor track.

Kelly Kemp-McLintock, chief advancement officer for The Jones Center, said The Jones Center Development Council and The Jones Trust board suggested using the center as the backdrop for the annual gala.

The idea allowed gala organizers to showcase the different spaces within the 220,000-square-foot structure, she noted. “It is a wonderful way to … let people see the center,” she said.

Reflections on the past and hopes for the future melded together during the announcement event and welcoming remarks.

Richard Hudson, vice chancellor for government and community relations at the University of Arkansas, told the gala audience about the great legacy of business leader and philanthropist Harvey Jones and his wife, Bernice Young Jones. Harvey Jones set up his first business venture, a mercantile store, when he was just 16. Two years later, he purchased a wagon and two mules and began hauling goods. He later sold his wagon and mules to buy a truck and started his transportation company. Jones Truck Lines became the largest privately owned truck line in the country in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Carolyn Allen, dean of libraries for the University of Arkansas, noted that Harvey and Bernice Jones were devoted to their community. During the Great Depression, for example, they purchased school supplies for children and helped keep the Springdale schools open.

The Jones Center was established in 1995 as a gift to the Northwest Arkansas community from Bernice Jones. Its vision, as stated in the gala program, is “a premier destination to Learn, Play and Belong. Core programs at The Jones Center include high quality recreation, youth programs and meeting space for families, business and business organizations.”

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Tim Nutt, head of the Special Collections Department at UA, said the more than 100 boxes of materials will offer significant opportunities for individuals researching the history of the trucking company and the two philanthropists. Not only do the records include significant information about Jones Truck Lines, but they also include such details as the inventory list for Har-Ber Village.

Dede Priest, a senior vice president for Wal-Mart, and Dennis Smiley, president, Arvest Bank-Benton County, served as honorary co-chairs for the gala and welcomed the approximately 450 guests to the sold-out event. In his remarks, Smiley referenced Bernice Jones’ motivation in the gift of The Jones Center to the region: “She had a vision this would be a place that would bring the community ... together.”

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