By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
As Junior League of Little Rock embarks on a century of service, the commitment to building a better community remains steadfast. Through a membership that is more than 900 women strong – the organization not only cultivates the most effective civic leaders in the Capital City, it celebrates a legacy of FUNdraisers that make projects throughout Central Arkansas possible. Chairman Shelby Hardin and a committee of JLLR members will welcome guests to Holiday House in November.
Shelby utilizes her Junior League of Little Rock experience + training as she plans Holiday House this year. “We welcome feedback from shoppers and merchants,” she elaborates. “It’s an opportunity to improve the Holiday House experience and remind everyone it’s our largest fundraiser and supports our community projects.” Junior League of Little Rock provides backpacks to more than 2,500 students in the Little Rock School District as well as more than 20,000 books for Little Reader Rock and funding for KOTA Camps at Camp Aldersgate. “These measurable outcomes are a result of Holiday House; it comprises nearly 50% of our annual budget,” Shelby explains. “And it’s our members that make it happen.”
The Junior League of Little Rock reflects the landscape of our community. Members represent most industry sectors and diversity is celebrated. Membership Vice President Telischa Lewis explains, “We are like-minded women who are committed to serving the community through voluntarism, and leadership development.” And the training members receive is equally impressive. “Since its inception, we have trained women leaders to understand the community’s needs, envision ways to better others’ lives and bring forth change.” Shelby’s service includes several years with the Holiday House Committee, “I’ve worked with the most amazing groups of women. We plan for 365 days to bring Holiday House to life! It’s the friendships and training that I really love.”
After a tenure of service, active members become sustainers and act as ardent ambassadors for the organization’s mission fulfillment work – often working directly with initiatives that JLLR introduced including partnerships with Arkansas Children’s, Camp Aldersgate, Centers for Youth & Families and Potluck. Gay Wyatt recalls her years as an active member, “I worked with Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families to develop a new project that provided support for children whose parents were divorcing.” As a teacher in the Little Rock School District, Gay realized this as an invaluable resource for families. “Our membership has always focused on the greatest needs and becomes stakeholders in finding solutions. This is our legacy, projects that benefit our most vulnerable community members, our children.”
Junior League of Little Rock continues a commitment to community and its members. Gay adds, “Each Junior League of Little Rock member has made our community a better place to live, work and play. Personally, the legacy has continued with my daughters. As children they rode with me in the Bargain Barn truck as we collected donations, were young helpers at Safety Town as soon as they received their own Safety Town certificates and worked beside me under the craft tent at Riverfest, both later becoming members of the Riverfest Committee.”
The JLLR impact is irrefutable. With beacons throughout the Capital City including from the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Discovery, the Junior League Building and Trapnall Hall – the organization’s rich history of improving the lives of women and children is well represented. A most recent initiative in honor of the JLLR Centennial addresses the importance of quality early childhood education. This includes funding a comprehensive media center at Rockefeller Early Childhood Center and programming at the Museum of Discover as well as the Arkansas Museum of Finest Arts.
Telischa reflects, “Our members willingly give the time, talents, and skills to fulfill the Junior League of Little Rock vision. We could not have existed 100 years without our members’ willingness to serve and learn. And we will continue for another 100 years with that same dedication and perseverance.”