How can women volunteering in their own communities make a big impact nationally?
New York, NY – December 2, 2010 – Call it the multiplier effect. While Junior Leagues are known for their work at the community level, some of the League programs that have had the largest impact came from shared initiatives designed to address national problems.
“One League out of 291 can make a difference in its own community, but harness the power of 291 Junior Leagues and you can make a big difference around the world,” says Delly Beekman, President of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. “The Leagues are never more powerful than when acting together, toward a common goal.”
Spousal abuse was just beginning to be identified as a major social problem in the 1970s when the Junior League of Bronxville started working with the county probation department to develop court assistance programs for abused wives (and husbands). With no federal legislation addressing the issue of spousal abuse, JLB’s work in Westchester County, N.Y. – one of the most affluent counties in the country – was a catalyst for AJLI’s broader role in advocating for the enactment of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the only federal funding source dedicated directly to domestic violence shelters and programs, in 1984. AJLI leadership as well as League members testified in Congress in support of the Act. Leagues also helped to build awareness about domestic violence among women and children in advance of the addition of the Violence Against Women Act provisions to the Crime Bill in 1994.
Also in the 1980s, alcoholism among women – wives and mothers – was still a problem many people preferred to ignore. In 1985, AJLI launched its Woman to Woman initiative, a three-year public awareness program to educate the public to the gender-specific impact of alcohol abuse cutting across socioeconomic boundaries. Within three years, more than 100 Leagues in the U.S., Mexico and Canada were participating in the initiative and there were more than 1 million copies of AJLI’s “Woman to Woman: Alcoholism and You” brochure distributed. AJLI also sponsored the first major national conference on women and alcohol in 1988 with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, with funding from Allstate Insurance and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corp.
Maternal and children’s health have been a key focus of The Junior League for all of its 110-year-history. In the 1990s, concerns about parents delaying or skipping vaccinations for their children emerged when infectious diseases like measles – which had been brought under control in the U.S. and other Western countries through vaccination – and other childhood diseases, many of them preventable, were killing thousands of infants a year. In 1991, with 100% League participation, AJLI orchestrated the Don't Wait to Vaccinate campaign in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Childhood obesity became one of the biggest children’s health issues of the 2000s, but the Junior League of Calgary started early in the decade with a program called Junior Chefs that became the model for Junior Leagues' Kids in the Kitchen, one of the most successful volunteer programs to address childhood obesity. Junior Chefs began in Calgary schools in 2001 to help children develop long-term nutritional knowledge. Now, as Kids in the Kitchen, Leagues in more than 200 cities in Canada, the U.S., the UK and Mexico have made the program an important part of their community impact strategies. To date, the program has directly touched tens of thousands of children and adults.
Ms. Beekman comments, “Achieving community impact has been in our genes as an organization for 11 decades. But League impact is never as great as it is when Leagues leverage the power of their association together to develop civic leaders who create demonstrable community impact.”
About The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.
Founded in 1901 by New Yorker and social activism pioneer, Mary Harriman, the Junior Leagues are charitable nonprofit organizations of women, developed as civic leaders, creating demonstrable community impact.
Today, The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI) is comprised of more than 160,000 women in 291 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, they constitute one of the largest, most effective volunteer organizations in the world.
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