Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Junior League: What do you DO?

My transfer into the Junior League of Albany, Georgia is official! I cannot believe that this next year will be my 9TH in JL, although almost half of that has been in non-resident status. [If you move to an area w/o an active League close by, you can stay in your former League as an active non-resident, which means you pay your annual dues, but that's it. It's like a place-holder for when you transfer back to an active area, so you don't have to go through the whole provisional year program, again, and start over from scratch.] I'm often asked, "What actually *IS* Junior League? And what do you really *DO*?"

Most communities have local women's service clubs or charity groups that focus on volunteering in the community, esp. re: women & children's issues. The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. is like the Grande Dame of them all. It's comprised of more than 155,000 women in 292 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the UK and the USA. The bonus to being in this organization, beyond international recognition, is that almost anywhere I move, I can plug into my new community and instantly be in the know about the local area. As soon as we showed up outside Chicago, I felt connected, b/c JLKD got me involved right away. Down South, JL is often an even bigger deal, b/c there's a bigger social element involved - becoming a member is celebrated as an achievement. (There is a lot of work your provisional year to get in!) Today's JL is *NOT* like the shallow organization portrayed in the background of The Help - JL women are serious about volunteer work re: issues like domestic violence, provisions for children with special needs, etc.; their focus isn't on garden parties. [But there are still fundraisers each year that are such a fun excuse to get dressed up & socialize! :-)] I'm excited to meet the girls here and get involved! I'm still friends (yay, FB!) with several girls from my first League, and in fact, I met one of my dearest BFFs when we were both in the same provisional class! (JL is not a sorority, but your provisional year is like a pledge year, where you learn all about how JL works & bond with your class.)

"OK, so you join JL, and then what do you do?" Everyone in JL has a job (Placement) for the year, which usually requires around 40+ hours of service. (You can change placements every year, if you want.) There are internal placements, which keep the organization running. (Each League is a chapter of AJLI, and there's a lot that goes into keeping it running as an actual non-profit.) I usually end up here; I especially enjoyed maintaining JLGNF's website for 2 years and doing PR for our cookbook. There are also the external placements, which are working directly with the community programs. Last year in JLKD, I worked with Cinderella's Closet, where we held dress drives all year, collected & sorted HUNDREDS of formals, compiled & delivered informational packets to over 100 schools, and held an event in April for any high school girl who could not afford a prom dress to come pick one out for free. It sounds like a little thing, but these girls had never had anything like this before! JL Albany has major projects that include working with SOWEGA Autism Resources, foster care resources, and the Lily Pad Center, which provides comprehensive care to sexual assault & child abuse victims & their families. Every member, no matter your placement, must work a certain number of hours each year directly with a community project, as well as pay the annual dues, meet the fundraising requirements, and attend a certain number of General Membership Meetings.

It's such a rewarding thing to be a part of, esp. now as a stay-at-home mom. :-) It makes me feel very connected.

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