Jackson — The 25 successful years of Mistletoe Marketplace, one of the South’s most profitable fundraiser of its kind, has brought more than longevity to the community service projects of the Junior League of Jackson. The November holiday shopping experience has led the 65-year-old organization to a national reputation for excellence in detail and in taking care of those touched by its members.
Bee Fitzpatrick, a 25-year Mistletoe vendor and owner of Orient Expressed Imports in New Orleans, said it’s not just the event, but the League that has kept her coming back to Jackson year after year.
“This organization has a high reputation across the nation among specialty vendors for treating us so well. The members introduced us to the lovely and hospitable Southern city of Jackson, and since that time our partnership with them has really been like a good marriage,” said Fitzpatrick, whose catalog and mail order business specializes in children’s clothing, toys and gifts.
Carol Puckett Daily, owner of Jackson’s Everyday Gourmet and a 24-year veteran at Mistletoe, agreed with Fitzpatrick that the focus on the more than 165 vendors and attention to detail is what sets the annual moneymaker apart.
She said, “Vendors from all across the region are attracted to Mistletoe. The League is attuned to each merchant’s needs and provides things like lounges and lunches that are extras not found at other shows.”
Daily, whose shop features culinary products, said it is also the group’s attention to detail not only with Mistletoe, but with all its commitments that has brought it to prominence and notoriety as a service organization.
Along with the yearly projects the League supports, the ladies are donating a part of this year’s three-day Mistletoe ticket sales to Hurricane Katrina relief.
Mistletoe chair Beth Brantley said that both volunteer and financial resources from the League will go toward storm recovery.
“We’re in the initial stages of working on a long-range plan to address how we can help and how the money can best be used,” said Brantley, who joins the other 600-plus active members who support the group’s 31 projects.
Daily commented, “Based on my experience with the League, whatever the group decides to do for hurricane victims will be thoroughly researched, meaningful and executed flawlessly.”
Fitzpatrick also praised their work and said, “Being from New Orleans, our participation in Mistletoe this year is especially meaningful since some of the proceeds are going to help storm victims. Just in my business, we had three employees who lost everything.”
Among other service ventures of the Junior League are Habitat for Humanity, Public School Mini-Grants, HeArts for the Arts, Rockin’ Mamas and the McClean Fletcher Grief Support Center.
Fitzpatrick said she can’t deny that Mistletoe and its 35,000 shoppers are good for business, too.
“We sell a lot of merchandise and also pick up new customers. We certainly hope they purchase from us at Mistletoe, like the merchandise and then go to our Web site for more,” she explained.
Daily said, “Yes, it’s good for business, and it kicks off the Christmas season for us.”
When asked if she’ll continue to be a vendor at Mistletoe for another quarter century, Daily replied, “We’ll continue to participate because of the wonderful projects the League does. We plan to continue as long as Mistletoe and the Everyday Gourmet are still around.”
Since 1981, the Junior League, through Mistletoe Marketplace, has raised approximately $8 million to help secure brighter futures for young Mississippians. This November 3-5, more than $750,000 was raised through the event held at the Mississippi Trade Mart.
Mistletoe was recognized as one of the American Bus Association’s Top 10 Events in America and as a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Harriet S. Vickers at email@example.com.