Junior League

I leave for my big Joplin trip tomorrow, so I figure I’ll just keep going with this week’s theme of volunteering!

Before I joined the Junior League, I had several different “pictures” of it in my mind. The first image that came to mind was a bunch of rich old ladies that wanted to do something good with all of their time and money. Next, I imagined a bunch of bored, rich, housewives…that view may have had something to do with “The Help“. So when somebody recommended that I join Junior League as a way to make friends, I was completely baffled! I didn’t think that I was old enough to join Junior League. But I decided to give it a try – at the very least, I thought I could maybe get some babysitting jobs out of it.

At my first meeting, I quickly learned that Junior League was NOTHING like I imagined. Yes, there were some rather well-off older women and some stay-at-home moms, but there were also working moms and single moms and unmarried professional women and recent college grads. Even though everybody had joined Junior League for different reasons, everybody supported our Junior League’s mission of helping kids in the Reading school district.

Similar to a sorority, my first year in Junior League I was considered a new member. We were welcome at the general meetings but also had our own new member meetings and planned a new member project. The ultimate goal of your new member year is to become familiar with ALL aspects of Junior League so that you can easily serve on a committee your next year.

I’m currently in my first active year and I am on the New Member Committee, so I am still attending all of the new member meetings and teaching the new members about Junior League. Each year you get “placed” with a different committee and while we don’t find out our placements until May, I’ve had a few people ask if I would be interested in a certain position, so I have a feeling where I’ll be heading next year!

Unfortunately with my work schedule, I haven’t been able to GO to every volunteer opportunity, but I try to help out behind the scenes. Last month I was able to spend most of my Saturday volunteering at Junior League’s Young Women’s Summit. Each year, the Junior League invites teenage girls from the Reading school district to come together for a weekend to learn leadership skills and discuss how they can improve their community. It was really fun to go an interact with the girls, but my favorite part was chatting with a former attendee that is now going to college and doing all sorts of awesome things. She came back to speak to the girls about her experiences prior to and during the summit. It was really emotional but at the end of her presentation, all of the current attendees told her how brave she was and that they looked up to her and admired her because she had worked hard, despite everything else going on in her life.

Joining Junior League has not only allowed me to meet people, but it has been an awesome way to get to know Reading and the surrounding areas. I’m excited to see what comes next!

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Volunteering

This was originally going to be part of my “Manic Monday” post, but as I started writing, I realized it was easily turning into it’s own post! Volunteering is something that helps me get involved in my new communities as I move, so I’m more than happy to write an entire post on it!

The first time I can remember volunteering was when I was maybe nine or ten. I was with my Girl Scout troop and we were helping to pack boxes at the local food bank. I knew the boxes were going to “poor people” but I didn’t think they were in my own town. One of the girls from the troop wound up sneaking a peak at the list of families getting these packages and all of the sudden she blurted out, “C—, why is your family on this list?!” We were all so stunned! I remember being appalled by the one girl’s behavior – she was going out of her way to look at a confidential list, which was bad enough, but then to call a “friend” out in front of everybody?? I couldn’t believe it. I was also shocked that a family from our town, let alone a family I knew, needed help. It made me realize that you can’t always “see” when somebody is in need of help.

Through Girl Scouts and various other programs, I frequently volunteered in my community until I graduated high school. My favorite opportunity from Connecticut was to help out at a summer school/day camp for students with special needs. These students ranged anywhere from having really hard to control ADHD all the way to having severe mental disabilities. Several students didn’t speak at all. When I went to college, it was harder to find ways to volunteer. I was living in a brand new community, so I didn’t know WHERE to look for these opportunities. My contributions at that time were limited to helping out with food drives.

My sorority highly values both service and philanthropy. By this point, service was an old hat, but philanthropy was something completely new to me. I was a broke college kid – I had never donated my (non-existent) money to any cause and I had never run any sort of fundraiser. My pledge class and I collected cans to raise money for a local animal shelter and my senior year, I was Mr. RIT chair! I was still able to help out my hometown as well – one of my pledge sisters was from my hometown and shortly before Christmas one year, we held an event at the house to make Christmas cards which we then distributed to nursing home residents at my grandma’s nursing home.

Mr. RIT 2009

When I started at the University of Delaware, I quickly found ways to volunteer. I hosted a “Day of Service” project my first year which gave me one of my favorite UD memories – we ran out of bread for the “PB&J Jam”, so I ran out to buy more. When I returned, it was POURING so I asked some RAs to meet me at the door. The RAs and residents participating in the program actually made a line stretching from my car into the building and passed everything down fireman brigade style. I WISH I had a picture of it. Back then, “Day of Service” was only complex-wide, but it soon became a campus event and now various alumni groups hold their own service events the same day that UD is hosting Day of Service. This year I met up with some alum from Reading to volunteer at an animal shelter.

My favorite organization that I got involved with at UD was the Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation. I had heard Andrew’s story years and years prior when I was still going to RIT. My then-boyfriend was from Wilmington and had siblings that had attended school with Andrew. The B+ Foundation’s goal is to raise money for children’s cancer research and to assist families with expenses they are unable to cover. I got to personally meet Joe McDonough twice during my time at UD – the first time he came to speak to my staff as we were racing money for UDance and the second time I invited him to come to speak at Widener University during my internship. My favorite part about working with B+ is that they emphasize that every little bit helps. At Widener, Joe McDonough told the story of how just $400 was able to get a little girl a portable oxygen container so she could fly home and spend her final days at her own house with her family members and dog.  I really hope I get to work with B+ again.

Since moving to Reading, I’ve continued to volunteer in my community and in other parts of the country. I joined Junior League a few months after moving here and have been able to help with several organizations that serve the children of Reading. I’m planning on doing a separate post on Junior League later this week! I was also asked by my students to be a trip advisor for Alternative Spring Break. I said yes without even knowing where I was going to be going or what I was going to be doing. I wound up going to Joplin, Missouri to help with two organizations and in just a few days, I’ll be heading back!! I’m super excited and Joplin is DEFINITELY getting its own post! 

If you have any favorite volunteer stories, be sure to leave them in the comments!