Local Junior League celebrates 60 years of service - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Local Junior League celebrates 60 years of service

By Jennifer Hines - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The Junior League of Tyler's roots stretch back to the 1950's. But before the Junior League of Tyler was, well, the Junior League of Tyler, a group of women formed the Tyler Service League in 1952. At the time, there was not an art museum within 100 miles of Tyler.

"The Junior League started that with a picture lady that took art into schools because the area kids didn't have anyway to see art," explained Andy Wells, JLT president.

The Tyler Service League became the Junior League of Tyler in 1960, and through its efforts the Tyler Museum of Art was opened in 1971. A fundraising effort is currently underway to build a new facility. And, if your a kid, you've probably been to the League's Discovery Science Place. In late 1993, the museum opened with its first temporary exhibit. During the first three months more than 53,000 people poured in through the doors, spreading the word and raising enough funds to open the permanent exhibit hall a year later. The League has also be instrumental in the long histories of Tyler teen court, Hospice of East Texas and the Blood Bank.

"It wasn't just, 'Oh, we're going to raise some money and put a Blood Bank in Tyler,' these women were actually out driving the blood mobile," said Wells.

Once called the "women in blue," the army of volunteers has traded in their old uniforms.

"One thing that shows the difference in us now is we've gone from starched dresses to t-shirts," said Rebecca Ballard, the 60th Anniversary chair.

JLT gives about $300,000 to around 30 agencies in the community. There are three areas of concentration, arts and education, health and human services and youth and family issues.

"[In] the Junior League, you have to have volunteers tied to your money, and so that's what makes us a little bit different than other organizations," explained Wells. "We don't just [say] 'Here, let me write you a check.' We also give you trained volunteers which in a lot of instances is worth more than the money."

The League raises money through donations and fundraisers like their Christmas bazaar "Mistletoe and Magic" and the League's popular cookbooks. They've sold more than 50,000 copies of "Cooking Through Rose Colored Glasses." Looking forward, the League is expanding on it's Girl Power Summit - a program committed to teaching hundreds of area teenage girls about how decisions they make today will affect their future.

"Just to focus on 6th grade girls is kind of a forgotten area of our society, and they are just at the point where they are about to start making some life changing decisions," said Sharon Wynne, JLT's president-elect.

The League is not just about educating others, it's also about improving themselves.

"Educating women to go out and do things is one of the best things about the League," said Ballard.

"Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or you work full time, we have we have all sorts of volunteer activities that we can fit to work your schedule," said Wynne.

Now, the Junior League of Tyler has close to 800 members, a league of women dedicated to improving the community.

"It's not just what someone does as a Junior League member, but it's what they do with what they learned as a Junior League member," said Wells. "So, it's the impact that it will have for years and years and years."

It's an impact that is felt far and wide across East Texas. 

To date, the Junior League of Tyler has given back to the community more than $5 million. This year alone, the League will contribute more than 20,000 volunteer hours and $375,000 to community projects. And Thursday night, the Junior League is holding a sock hop at the Caldwell Elementary gym to celebrate their 60th Anniversary kickoff party.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly