Karl Hayes believes in providing the shoulders others can stand on.
Hayes, medical distributor and senior drug sales representative for Cardinal Health, has been part of the Little Rock community since 1996. Since 1998, he’s given his volunteer services to Saint Mark Baptist Church – “This is where I do most of my volunteer work” with the Department of Security and Assistance in feeding the homeless.
His philosophy: “If you can give, give. It’s better to give than to take. I’m a country boy from Mississippi, and my parents always taught me, do to others as you do to others. So I think it’s pretty big. If you can do something For someone… please do it. Don’t leave anyone behind; try to go back and pull it off.”
He is also executing his philosophy in his third year by overseeing an event during which 36 young women will make the official bends to the community… Alpha Fraternity Inc. (The foundation is the separate, nonprofit fundraising arm of the fraternity division.)
The 2021 ball takes place on Saturday at Governor’s Hall I and II of the Little Rock’s Statehouse Convention Center. The rigorous black tie event will “highlight the social visibility of talented young African American women who have demonstrated community service, academic excellence, participated in various workshops related to social awareness and engagement, and are planning to pursue their college education,” according to organizer information at Eventbrite.com. .
A native of Hernando, Miss., near Memphis and a graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Hayes left the natural state after graduating for some time, but then moved to Little Rock and became involved with the B Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, of which he is Vice President. But his volunteer days with Alphas date back to his work as an undergraduate chapter member at Arizona State University.
Not for the healthy
When he took the ball chair position, Hayes says, “I was terribly intimidated by the job,” even though he cut his teeth while serving on the committee for a year with the former president. The junior football chief typically serves two to four years, but Hayes’ predecessor relinquished the position to finish his master’s degree.
“So…it kind of got me going…but it’s been a great experience so far,” Hayes says. He and his wife, Shelia, have three sons, “So I’ve never met so many young ladies like these. So it’s a different experience. But it’s so much fun.”
Before he became chairman, Hayes oversaw ticket sales for the ball—”which is probably one of the most painful parts of the job. At the time, we were actually selling tickets and Deeb selling tickets. And then we’d sit people in the areas where Debs was sitting. But this year, we tried something different, and we went with Eventbrite. So, it relaxes us from making people sit. Just like a concert, go and pick your own seats.”
And it’s good that there are seats to choose from this year. Like many events of the 2020-21 social season, the ball was canceled last year due to the coronavirus.
“We thought about trying to do this virtually … even trying to shrink it down,” Hayes says. “But with the stakes so high at that time, we decided to go ahead and cancel it. So, the young ladies who missed that year, we gave them a chance to come back for that time. So, in this class, we have the new college students and high school seniors.”
At a time when young adults have become so sophisticated – some might say nervous – where does junior ball get its constant appeal?
“I think half of that is legacy, passed down from generation to generation,” Hayes says. “In this class, we have like two or three young girls [following in the tradition of] Their mothers, grandmothers, grandmothers, and aunts. That’s a big part of it. Also, [members of] Brothers with their daughters.”
Proceed with caution
Hayes admits there has been considerable reluctance to go ahead with the event this year in light of other groups that have canceled their events for a second year due to the ongoing pandemic.
There is one thing to keep in mind when moving forward: the smaller beginner class. During previous years, the number of beginners was 60 or more. There was still some hesitation, so “what we decided to do was… hybrid.” Most of the orientation and workshops were conducted prior to the event via Zoom. These included etiquette workshops – ‘and we’ve included… an aspect of mental health’ to help young women deal with the effects the pandemic may have on them. Other activities: brunch between mother and daughter on 20 November; A rehearsal of the father-daughter dance that began on Monday.
The organizers went with more space for social distancing. Previously, the ball was held in the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Convention Center, with a capacity of about 800. This year it will take place in Governor’s Hall I and II, capacity has been reduced to about 540 … eight to a table instead of 10. Masks will be required and will be checked Temperatures when guests arrive.
The welcome is preceded by the introduction of each beginner one by one as they ascend to the stage. Her father or father would accompany each beginner from the stage, walk halfway down the middle lane, stocky, and then team up with her attendant—a young high school or college student, ages 17-22. After each person is introduced, the lady of the ceremonies will again introduce each predicate and say who are her parents and where she goes to school; Companions will be similarly presented.
After dinner, the grant winners will be announced — “there will likely be two grants from outside vendors,” Hayes says. “And then we’ll also have Miss Congeniality winners, ad sales winners, and Miss Pi Lambda [winners] First, second and third place.
With event proceeds, the foundation is usually able to award scholarships totaling about $11,000 annually to beginners, conduct service projects and donate to other community and charitable organizations, according to information on the Eventbrite website.
“This year we worked with some local colleges,” says Hayes, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; University of Central Arkansas at Conway; Arkansas State University and Philander Smith College. “These schools came to enlist, because enlistment is down in most universities now… and [have] take a look [to see] If young women are interested in their colleges and universities. And [they’re] She is also working with the foundation to give them scholarships for public schools.”
Beginners are selected through invitation notices to Central Arkansas schools. Eligible students must have a minimum average of 2.5 points, be active in the community as well as in school, and be “someone who wants to be around like-minded people in search of social activity,” Hayes says.
And Debs who attended college, jobs, and adulthood don’t forget. Alphas maintains a “Where Are They Now” social media feature showing past attendees.
“We’ve already talked about a ‘get back together’ reunion contract,” Hayes says. “That’s in the works now.
“And we try to go back and grab a former Deb to talk to our Deb every year.”
Congratulations with the assistant
Hayes gives a lot of credit to his wife for helping him out as head of the ball.
“We’ve always set out to do the starters, but as men we don’t know everything that happens in a woman’s life. So I think it’s very important to have someone help point us in the right direction. We also have what we call Deb Moms,” women who can answer Any questions Debs doesn’t feel comfortable asking guys.
“This is a part we’ve been trying to integrate since I’ve been head here,” Hayes says. “I think it plays a big role.” In addition to the Hayes Committee of six to seven members, there are five Deb Moms this year.
After the event ends, Hayes knows the relief will be fleeting. He says planning a starter ball is “like an endless saga.” “You might get a two-month break. That’s it.”
He thinks he might have to stay as president at least until his granddaughter, a tenth grader in Parkview, is of freshman age and can be introduced. She was asking “PawPaw” to keep the job.
The 71st Annual Junior Scholarship Ball, offered by the Central Arkansas Sphinx Foundation in association with the Pi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. , 6 p.m. Saturday, Statehouse Convention Center, 101 E.Markham Street, Little Rock. Tickets: $75 (plus a $6.20 fee) at eventbrite.com.