The year was 1922. In Indianapolis, author Kurt Vonnegut was born, Indiana Avenue was a hub for the local jazz scene and the 10th running of the Indianapolis 500 took place.
Meanwhile, 10 local women came together and established the Junior League of Indianapolis (JLI) to promote voluntarism. Now, as JLI prepares to celebrate 100 years of service, our mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers is more crucial than ever.
Philanthropy and service have been JLI cornerstones since the very beginning. Founding member and first president Charlotte Scott Moxley had a goal to equip and maintain the occupational therapy department at Riley Children’s Hospital. The project was one of JLI’s major endeavors for nearly 20 years, and its members served in the roles of nurses, caregivers and fundraisers. Their care reached thousands of children. Through the Junior League Trust Fund, established in 1929, more than $550,000 has been distributed as grants to the occupational therapy department and other organizations serving children with disabilities.
Over the years, JLI has evolved and expanded. Our members are true leaders in the community – dedicated, diverse and effective. More than half of our membership works outside the home, and the training they receive through JLI provides essential knowledge to affect change. We are always looking for new members who are seeking ways to make a difference in their community while also developing their own potential.
In 2020, JLI created a Diversity Equity Inclusion task force to educate and empower our members. I am proud to be JLI’s third Black president, and I want to ensure our membership is leading the important conversations about moving forward toward racial equality.
Through community grants, service projects and volunteer hours, JLI is determined to be a catalyst for lasting change in the lives of children and their families in our community. Since 2000, we have contributed more than $4.9 million to local organizations.
In 2021, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, there’s a profound need for voluntarism and charitable giving in our community. According to Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest grantmaker, nonprofits are facing an increased demand for services paired with strains on fundraising. There have been large drops in volunteer support; two-thirds of volunteers surveyed decreased or stopped contributing their time altogether due to the pandemic.
The organizations JLI supports need more assistance than ever. For example, we volunteer with the Patachou Foundation’s after-school meal program for Indianapolis Public School students, which is distributing four times as many meals as it did pre-pandemic. Our recent grant to School on Wheels, which is dedicated to meeting the educational needs of homeless children, will enable the organization to hire more staff and fund the technology needed to successfully provide virtual tutoring.
JLI may be operating differently these days, as meetings, trainings and even our beloved Holiday Mart fundraiser went virtual. However, our commitment to the Indianapolis community has not changed. We plan to spend the next several months honoring our past, celebrating the present and securing our future.
We have a slate of activities planned to commemorate 100 years. This fall, we’ll host a 5K fundraiser, a Centennial Day at the Statehouse and a program called Passport to Our Past, where members can learn from and volunteer with organizations that honor JLI’s past. In addition, we will host the national Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) conference in October with over 500 participants. AJLI represents more than 180,000 women in nearly 300 Leagues in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Mexico.
I am honored to lead an organization that has spent a century making a difference in Indianapolis. And while I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the 10 women who founded Junior League all those years ago, I believe the strides we’ve made over the last 100 years have made them proud.