Chairman Valerie Pruitt looks forward to welcoming friends and patrons of Youth Home to this year’s Eggshibition.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Caitlin Neumann with Face Your Day Salon | Makeup by Aaron Perkins with Face Your Day Salon
Every individual is a collage of people and experiences that have influenced them. The little and big moments alike piece together a person’s character and perspective. Valerie Pruitt, executive director of the Reform Alliance, recalls those kinds of moments from her childhood that still resonate with her and inspire her heart for service.
“I’ve always been involved in community activities and organizations, and I get that from my dad – he was a minister, and I always saw him helping people. That’s where I really get that desire, that mission.” She distinctly remembers his kindness at their family-owned community grocery store. Valerie’s father would allow shoppers who didn’t have money to take what they needed with a promise to repay the debt. “That taught me about people and honesty, and how you really have to be there to help those who are less fortunate than you are.”
Valerie also recalls a fourth grade teacher who regularly brought clothes for a classmate. She would wait until everyone – except Valerie – had left the classroom, so as not to embarrass the student, and because she trusted Valerie. “I remember, gosh, that was so emotional for me.”
Valerie carried these values of generosity and kindness throughout college as well as her career and philanthropic work. At the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she studied broadcasting and journalism. Valerie worked as a news reporter for KAAY Radio, a city desk reporter for the then-Arkansas Gazette, Public Affairs Director for KUAR-FM and Comcast Public Affairs Director & Channel 14 Station Manager. Additionally, she was a campaign consultant for a number of city and state political campaigns.
Understanding how formative her own upbringing was and that not everyone is as fortunate, Valerie also invested more than 15 years in a number of nonprofit organizations that transform the lives of young people – including Pulaski County Youth Services and Youth Home. Youth Home is a private, nonprofit mental health center that provides comprehensive care, including residential treatment, school-based services and outpatient services for all ages.
Valerie joined the Youth Home Board of Directors several years ago at the suggestion of a friend and served as president last year. For her, it was a natural fit. “Valerie has so much compassion for the youth, adults and families in Youth Home’s mental health programs, and that drives her to be an advocate on their behalf,” says Youth Home Special Events Coordinator Stephanie Jonasson.
As chairman of this year’s Eggshibition, Valerie looks forward to welcoming friends and patrons of Youth Home to one of the more unique events in the Capital City. For more than two decades, Eggshibition has featured the most unusual and creative silent auction in the area: egg-inspired artwork from local artists, though it has expanded to include art of all kinds. Stephanie notes that the egg represents a symbol of growth and potential. “Stigma still plays a large role in keeping people from seeking the mental health care that they need,” she adds. “Eggshibition helps to break that stigma by making it okay to talk about mental illness and reminding people that help is available.”
Valerie is extraordinarily proud of the continued work of Youth Home and hopes to welcome many new faces to Eggshibition, because she cares deeply about those moments that have the power to shape a life.
Favorite Artist: my son
Favorite Author: Maya Angelou
Favorite Album: Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World