Since 1884 the Centers for Youth and Families (CFYF) has provided services and aid to people all over Arkansas. The CFYF, which helps over 8,000 children and families each year, addresses typical family issues and concerns that today’s families encounter. It is important to the CFYF that children and families do not go without help, a vision with which Merri Chandler easily gets onboard.

Chandler fits perfectly alongside JoBeth McElhanon as the co-chair of the 23rd Annual Fashion Show, Centers of Fashion, not only because she loves fashion but also because her personal vision lines up seamlessly with that of the CFYF. “One of my greatest joys is to help a younger woman get through a tough time so she can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Chandler said. “I don’t want any young person or young parent to think he or she is all alone and has no options.”

Chandler believes no person should have to suffer unnecessarily, and she wants to be the type of person who can mentor and help women, families and people in need.

The Centers of Fashion Show, which is presented by Dillard’s, will take place on Sunday, April 17, and benefits the CFYF’s Bess Chisum Stephens Community Center and the numerous activities it offers to the public. The community center is the most recent addition to the CFYF and provides services to the community, including aerobics, dance classes, tai chi for arthritis, step classes, a social area with a library and various games and many other services.

When we asked Chandler where her motivation to help others originates, she revealed that her heart for people ultimately comes from her relationship with God. “I am as selfish and self-centered as they come,” she says. “[But God] has done so much for me. I want to help others.” As a wife, mom of two and an avid scuba diver, Chandler confessed she has more free time than most women with full-time jobs. “I am a wife, a mom, mentor, teacher, student, friend and volunteer…I try to use [my free time] to make a difference in someone else’s life as well as take care of my family.”

The first time Chandler came in contact with the CFYF was about a year ago, when she took a young friend to see what help she could find as a single mom. “I knew then that I liked what Centers had to offer…Centers offers a variety of help for women and families, from getting a GED and setting up a budget to temporary shelter. [Centers] teaches families how to get the help they need so they can be independent and thrive.”

Fashion for a Cause
Sunday, April 17, 6:30 p.m.,
Dillard’s, West Wing, Park Plaza Mall
Tickets - $50 per person
Contact - CFYF Foundation Office, 666-9436