Jamaica Ball promises food, fun and nonprofit accolades

The Queens Sickle Cell Advocacy Network, represented by founder and President Gloria Rochester (l.) during a walk to raise money for research last year, is one of more than 10 nonprofits that attendees can choose to direct funds toward when attending the Jamaica Ball.
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Don’t just party — party with a purpose.

That is the message Greg Mays, founder of A Better Jamaica, wants to send with the inaugural Jamaica Ball, a chance for community members to show their support for the nonprofits serving the greater Jamaica area as they eat, dance and party the night away.

More than 10 local nonprofits — such as the artist advocate Cultural Collaborative Jamaica and the Southern Queens Park Association — have signed up for the May 19 mixer at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, at 161-04 Jamaica Ave. A full 90 percent of every $50 ticket, which can be purchased at thejamaicaball.com, will be donated to the organization of the buyer’s choice.

“I’ve been on enough boards of directors and enough spring benefits and anniversary celebrations to know that there aren’t enough friends of my organization to purchase the number of tickets needed for a big celebration,” Mays said.

“So I thought, ‘What can I do as part of my group’s mission to support the work of other nonprofits in Jamaica?’ And then I was like, “Oh, wow! Why don’t I just sort of pull all these folks together and have a joint fund-raiser?’ And that’s the Jamaica Ball,” he said.

Due to the size of the performing arts center, there is a 250-ticket limit, but Mays said if the event is a success, he would like to be able to host upwards of 1,500 attendees in a few years.

“Quite honestly, I hope to grow out of the venue,” he said.

The party is sponsored by the stalwart Greater Jamaica Development Corp., and Mays was able to secure corporate funding from JetBlue, a feat he said is no easy achievement in southeast Queens.

Coming up on its fifth anniversary, A Better Jamaica’s programming includes its Family Movies in the Parks series. Mays said similar events, such as Bryant Park’s summer film series in Manhattan, easily attract large corporate sponsors, which often overlook the Jamaica area.

The Long Island City-based JetBlue, he said, was eager to jump on board with the ball, which is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and run until 1 a.m.

“I’m particularly happy with JetBlue’s support,” he said. “They’re a Queens-based company and I think that allowed them to see more value and opportunity.”

This summer’s series will screen movies in Cambria, Brookville, Baisley Pond and St. Albans parks. More information can be found at abetterjamaica.org.

Mays said that since former Gov. David Patterson took member items off the table, nonprofits have had to look elsewhere to supplement the loss of funding from their state representatives.

“If I could get a different audience or a different set of attendees than we typically see at political fund-raisers, I will feel as if I succeeded,” he said. “I wanted to provide an opportunity for the regular, everyday, hardworking folks who live in Jamaica to support the institutions that work for and with them.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:00 am, May 12, 2012
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