The Junior League of Lubbock is celebrating a huge anniversary this month: 60 years in the Lubbock community. But do you know what that group is, and what it does?
We asked a lot of people from different areas around town. Most people answered, "No, what is it?"
Although, one man told us, "Yeah, it's a baseball team."
If you don't know what the Junior League of Lubbock is, I think you'll be amazed at what that group has done for our community and the South Plains.
You might have noticed a big building on 84th Street near Quaker with Junior League of Lubbock on the sign in front of it.
That is the headquarters for about 200 women, all volunteers, where ideas come together and big things happen to make Lubbock a better place to live.
Last year, the Junior League provided more than 14,000 volunteer hours.
You can see the impact in sweet little thank you cards from elementary school children. Andrea, in second grade, writes, "I like the food you give me and my brother. Thank you."
Among other things, the Junior League of Lubbock is feeding about a thousand kids a week. They meet in a local warehouse to fill every sack every week to send home with kids when they leave school on Friday. Why? Because League members have learned that many children are not eating anything at home and are hungry over the weekend until that next meal at school on Monday.
Gonzalez, in 5th grade, writes, "I want to thank you for the bag of food. It helps me on weekends. I share it with my youngest sister. We eat everything."
Denise, a third grader, says, "Whenever you send me food, it puts me in a good mood."
Feeding hungry children is just one reason why Holiday Happening is so important.
Last year, that major shopping event at the Civic Center raised more than $300,000 for the League to put back into various community projects.
In all, the Junior League has raised more than $5 million to be recycled back into our community.
Here's a brief list of programs the Junior League has launched or supported with funding or volunteers since they were first organized in 1954:
THE BARTON HOUSE (1971) League members did all the research work to find the perfect historical focal point for what would become the National Ranching Heritage Center.
THE SOUTH PLAINS CHILDREN'S SHELTER (1978) The league established a board, found a house, provided volunteers and funding more than once ($22,500) to get this shelter started.
LUBBOCK AREA FOUNDATION (1981) This community service was made possible by the Junior League, establishing a tax exempt corporation that collects money and distributes it for charitable purposes.
FAMILY GUIDANCE AND OUTREACH CENTER ( 1981) The League was one of the original sponsors for a center that would help build strong families and prevent child abuse
That's where Lynnette Wilson works. She tells us, "The Family Guidance and Outreach Center would not have been able to open its doors without the help of the Junior League." Even the little rattles that are distributed by the center were provided by Junior League dollars. Each rattle comes with a reminder - "Shake this, not your baby" in an effort to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.
RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE ( 1985) The League made the first pledge to begin construction of this home away from home for the families of sick children, with more funding later and hundreds of volunteer hours.
SAFETY CITY (1991) This was an idea that began with Junior League moms who wanted a little city just for kids to learn the rules of the road. It's a campaign that today educates more than 6,000 students every year and little visitors as young as two years old.
CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTER (1998) For this, the League involved many community partners with funds and volunteers, providing services to the victims of child abuse.
Carmen Aguirre, the Executive Director, says the center today sees anywhere between 500 to 900 children a year to identify those victims and get them the help they need.
LEGACY PLAY VILLAGE ( 2002) The league was the founding donor, organizing 10,000 community volunteers to build this amazing one of a kind playground.
Julia Camp, a Junior League Member, says the effort took three years of planning, but the result is a lasting accomplishment for kids to enjoy with their families.
But for some children, it is that FOOD 2 KIDS program (2005) that they cherish the most.
Among the 15,000 kids enrolled at 35 elementary schools in LISD, three out of four of them qualify for a free or reduced price lunch at school, and might not eat beyond those meals if not for the vision and volunteers of the Junior League.
And that is where a new effort has begun. It's called SPARK (2012).
In this program, a dozen girls are selected from each of 4 middle schools in Lubbock (Wilson, Atkins, Dunbar, Cavazos) to build self esteem and leadership skills. The hope is that the values and lessons learned from Spark will spread to their circle of friends and make a difference when all those young people get to high school and beyond.
So what is the Junior League?
It's thousands of hours of hard work by hundreds of Lubbock women through the years, who search for a problem or need in this community then raise the money to fix it.
Adrienne Cozart (V.P. - UMC): "Thank you Junior League for your project, the Spark program..."
Coach Kliff Kingsbury: "Thank you Junior League for providing a home away from home for the families of children in the hospital."
Lynnette Wilson (Family Guidance & Outreach Center): "Thank you Junior League for making a difference in the lives of so many children."
Behrl Robertson: "Thank you Junior League for feeding more than 1200 kids in LISD every week."
State Representative Charles Perry: "Thank you Junior League for educating our youth to make healthier lifestyle choices."
Carmen Aguirre (Children's Advocacy Center): "Thank you Junior League for your countless hours of volunteer work."
Mayor Glen Robertson: "Thank you Junior League for making Lubbock a better place to live. Happy Birthday!"
Last year, Junior League members gave more than 14,000 volunteer hours to the community.
If you'd like to learn more about joining the league, they are in the process of recruiting new members right now.
For more information, go to www.jllubbock.com or call 794-8874.
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