The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri: women building better communities.
By: Alise Kowalski, PR/Marketing Chair, 2013-14
This year in our League’s history is a significant one: we are celebrating 100 years of service to the Kansas City community. I’m a relative newcomer to the League having just started my fourth year (third active year) of membership but on Friday, September 20, 2013 I will join hundreds of my fellow League members, some boosting a League career spanning several decades and others just a few months, for the Celebrating a Century of Service luncheon in downtown Kansas City. And despite my short tenure as a League member, I am wonderfully proud of this organization and honored to spend the day celebrating the women, past and present, whose dedication, compassion, leadership and commitment to voluntarism have made this organization, 1,411 women strong, what it is today.
One of the things I find most inspiring about our history is that women, no matter the time, role in society, no matter the obstacles, saw a need and filled it through fundraising, organizing volunteers, planning and cooperation. They didn’t wait for someone else to provide assistance, aid or direction, they took action. Today, 100 years later, we are still taking action when we see a need in our community. Ours really has been a century of service.
So, I’m celebrating:
…Because 100 years ago, 50 women organized themselves into the 14 Junior League in the nation and helped operate, among several other community projects, the children’s nursery at the Mattie Rhodes Center which provided shelter and basic necessities to children, single mothers, homeless individuals, and the elderly that were facing hardship.
…Because 82 years ago, the League helped establish the Art Docent Program at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The program is still in place today.
…Because 62 years ago, a few women noticed that according to census data there were no reports of children with special needs, specifically cerebral palsy, in community despite first-hand knowledge of families with children with special needs. Due to social stigma, children were kept at home and their needs and the needs of their families went largely unmet. League members saw a need and were instrumental in founding the Cerebral Palsy Nursery Group, now known as Children’s TLC.
…Because 61 years ago, the League provided consistent funding and volunteers to staff the Kansas City Nursery School for the Blind for nearly 20 years. The school later became the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI) in 1982.
…Because 26 years ago, the League held its first Holiday Mart and raised $94,000. The four day shopping event is organized and implemented by volunteers and has raised more than $8 million to support our community projects.
…Because 23 years ago, the League’s Letters from Home project supported Operation Desert Shield troops.
…Because 13 years ago, the League launched its Children’s Literacy impact area. In its 10-year focus, the League provided $1.3 million in children’s literacy funding, collected 765,000 books through its Hooked on Books program and donated 29,850 volunteer hours.
…Because 12 years ago, the League donated money to the New York Junior League Relief Fund and the Community Blood Center in support of the tragic events of September 11.
…Because three years ago, the League launched its Children’s Nutrition and Fitness impact area through a unique partnership with Harvesters and University Academy. Each week, members stuff 150+ Backsnack bags while others devote time to working in community gardens or assisting with Family Dinners. And all of those efforts are making a real difference according to a recent KC Star article which noted: “Among 50 students screened, the percentage who were overweight fell from 45.9 percent in the 2010-2011 school year to 36.9 percent in the 2011-2012 year.”
Learning about these events from other members and sustaining members who were on the front lines leading our League as agents of change and agents of action further affirms my support and admiration for the women, past and present, who comprise our membership.