By Glenda Graves | Portrait photo by Keith Branch
Clint and Jessica Schaff
A Heartwarming Collaboration
This month is known for one of Northwest Arkansas’ favorite fundraising events. Soup Sunday, held each winter by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, is a cozy gathering where restaurants from all over the area come together and serve their specialty soups. The event also includes live music, a kid zone and, new this year, a baked goods auction. It’s an event unlike any other and sure to be a hit again this year.
This year’s Soup Sunday event is co-chaired by Clint and Jessica Schaff of Bentonville. Although they have only lived in Northwest Arkansas for a few years, they have quickly realized how important volunteering for local nonprofits can be for their community. Shortly after moving to Bentonville in 2021, they had their first child, a little girl named Carter. They say it was having their first child that prompted them to pay closer attention to policies that affect children and families.
Clint, the youngest of four children, was born and raised in North Dakota by parents who both grew up in rural farming families. He studied journalism and political science at the University of Minnesota and, after graduation, worked in New York City for a company owned by the late musical artist David Bowie and with the New York Yankees baseball club. Clint later moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in the White House for a period, where he met former President Bill Clinton. After a stint in Chicago, he eventually moved to Los Angeles.
“I went to work for the first social media agency. I sort of changed crafts frequently but always centered around communications as a vehicle for community,” Clint said. “I was interested in changing the world, and I thought social media could positively change our relationships.”
Clint and Jessica Schaff with Carter and relatives visiting from California volunteering at Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville for Carter’s 2nd birthday on Dec. 19, 2023
He moved around to several different firms over the years and eventually got back to what he considered his mission. “I didn’t want to sell video games or soap,” he said. “I went to work for the Los Angeles Times and worked with them on television shows and podcasts, bringing new storytelling modes and much needed revenue to support public-service journalism on which a healthy democracy depends.”
He served as vice president of strategy and development, where he was responsible for leading the development and programming of various audio, video and experiential projects for LA Times Studios. The most notable studio project was Dirty John, the blockbuster podcast and two-season television series franchise.
After earning a master’s degree from the University of Southern California, he taught as an adjunct instructor at USC Annenberg for many years.
Jessica Chung Schaff was born and grew up in Orange County, California. Both of her parents were immigrants from Korea. Her father passed away when she was 9, leaving her mother to raise Jess and her older sister herself. “My mother did a wonderful job,” Jess said. “We never had to move when I was growing up. She still lives in the house we grew up in.”
Jess graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in communication. She worked at Starbucks during college and loved it, so upon graduation, she decided to stay on there. With that, she unintentionally launched a fulfilling career in retail. Her dedication led to an 11-year tenure with Starbucks, during which Jess climbed the ranks to become a district manager.
In 2009, seeking a new challenge, Jess decided to leave Starbucks and pursue her MBA. Her journey took her to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. Post-MBA, Jess entered the corporate world with Target, a transition that brought her to Minnesota. “I initially had trouble locating Minnesota on a map,” she said, joking.
Jess said she lasted six winters in Minnesota, which is quite admirable for a California girl.
In 2015, Clint was visiting his parents — who had moved to Minnesota — and happened to match with Jess on Tinder. Even though he didn’t live there at the time, he decided to meet up with her. That date changed the course of their lives. They initially dated long distance, but eventually Jess was able to get a transfer to Los Angeles with Target before joining Netflix to lead retail strategy for its new consumer products division. “Neither of us were very young at the time,” Jess said. “We knew what we wanted, and it all moved pretty fast. We were engaged within six months.”
They were both living their dreams in Los Angeles when Jess was recruited to join Walmart in 2019. The opportunity took them to the San Francisco Bay Area where Jess worked out of the company’s San Bruno office, bringing a wealth of insights and giving her the ability to apply the lessons learned throughout her diverse career. Then, when Jess became pregnant with Carter, they relocated to Arkansas so Jess could be at the Walmart home office. She serves now as vice president of digital acceleration for fashion.
Clint and Jessica Schaff with Carter on Halloween 2023 dressed as a chef, ramen soup and chicken noodle in promotion of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families’ Soup Sunday event
The Schaffs with Dr. Chris Jones at his book reading event at Two Friends Books in Bentonville on July 16, 2023
Though Clint didn’t come to Arkansas for a professional opportunity, he said he is happy and excited about the variety of projects he has been able to support. He led communications for Chris Jones, the Democratic nominee for governor of Arkansas; is currently producing several TV, film and media projects; supports the Bentonville Film Festival; and just resumed teaching as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Arkansas.
The couple attended Soup Sunday last year and enjoyed it so much that they inquired about helping in any way they could. They are thrilled to be co-chairing the event this year. Jess also serves on the board of directors for AACF.
“Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a nonpartisan organization, so no matter what team you are on, we can all agree that these issues are important,” Clint said. “Yes, there are great resources here in Northwest Arkansas, but people are hurting all over this state, and we must do better. We want all the kids in Arkansas to succeed and to have affordable health care, healthy meals and a healthy home environment.”
Missy Kincaid, development director for AACF, said Jess and Clint are perfect Soup Sunday co-chairs. “They align with our mission (of advocating for kids and families through good public policy),” she said, “and they bring incredible energy and creativity along with a huge circle of friends who share their love for our community and really good food.”
The Schaffs said they still have a lot of work to do, and with each task, they become increasingly excited about the upcoming event. They hope to have as many friends and families from Northwest Arkansas attend as possible. The event will be held Feb. 18 at the Rogers Convention Center from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. Email Missy Kincaid at email@example.com or call (479) 927-9800 for more information.