No More Pearl Girls
The Junior League of Wilmington has shed its old reputation. Now it’s for anyone and everyone who wants to help add to its impressive record of service.
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It’s said that if you want something done, ask a busy person.
For a very big job, that person would, collectively, be the Junior League. Over the past 92 years, there is hardly a worthy project in Wilmington that this group of committed women volunteers has not been involved in.
Depression-era baby clinics, literacy classes for immigrants, child welfare services, and a program for pregnant teens, as well as establishment of institutions such as the Delaware Nature Society and the Ronald McDonald House are all causes adopted at one time by the Junior League.
“What we’re doing is looking for the area of greatest need and where there’s a need we can fill,” says Tara Agne, league president and mother of four young children. “We’re all working together to make the community better.”
The Junior League of Wilmington has about 500 members. About 100 are either active or first-year provisional members. The rest are less-active “sustainers,” who have been involved with the group for at least eight years. The league promotes “the concept of lifelong membership,” Agne says. Members come from all three Delaware counties and nearby Pennsylvania.
One spring weekend in 2008, leaguers armed with tools—spouses and children in tow—landscaped four of the five homes that the West End Neighborhood House manages for people 18 to 21 years old who have “aged out” of the state foster care system. At another house, members had hung curtains and artwork and furnished bathroom accessories and bed linens. “We have provided a safe place for [the youths] to live. The Junior League has made it feel like a home,” says Hayley Schmittinger, director of the Life Lines program at West End.
For the next year and more, volunteers will continue to help with life-skills mentoring and career-building workshops for children, along with childcare and maintenance of homes and myriad other smaller services for West End. By the end of 2011, the league will have contributed hundreds of hours of work and $90,000 to the community center—“an incredible investment in the youth we serve,” says Schmittinger. Members will also have accomplished more than two-dozen other smaller endeavors there and elsewhere, including what Agne calls “done-in-a-day” projects.
The group raises money through dues, donations and various activities. For the past 29 years, volunteers have donned their signature red shirts and run the popular fall Whale of a Sale. The giant indoor yard sale attracts bargain-hunters at every income level, netting as much as $30,000. Another fundraiser is the Heart of the Home kitchen tour each April, which raised $45,000 in 2008. And for anyone who loves food, there’s the League cookbook, “Dancing on the Table.” Recipes are triple-tested in members’ kitchens.
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