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Junior League adapts to change

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When Daniela Helms joined the Junior League of Greensboro 11 years ago, she says, most of its members did not work outside their homes.

Today, most of its members do work outside their homes, reflecting a shift that has prompted the Junior League to offer more options for when members can volunteer and attend organizational meetings, says Helms, who is serving as president this year.

“There’s just a need for more flexibility on our part,” she says.

Founded in 1926, the Junior League contributes over $80,000 a year to community programs and has 275 active members who give over 15,000 hours of their time to local causes.

Once perceived as an organization whose members wore white gloves and attended teas, Helms says, the Junior League has evolved into a service organization that provides professional development and volunteer opportunities for its members.

Active members are required to work three shifts of three hours each in the Bargain Box, the organization’s thrift store that is over 50 years old and generates roughly $120,000 a year in revenue.

The Junior League uses those funds to support its organization, which has an office manager, to provide training opportunities for its members, and to make contributions to local programs.

Active members also are placed in volunteer positions, either with organizations the Junior League supports with its contributions, or with the Junior League itself.

Based on requests it receives in August and studies in the fall, the Junior League each January selects community projects to support.

One project, now in its fifth year and known as the Champion Coalition, aims to raise awareness about domestic violence.

The Junior League, one of only four among its 294 members that the Association of Junior Leagues International selected for the project, has just released a DVD on domestic violence that features former Fox 8 News anchor Carol Andrews and was produced by Rob Van Camp of Wide Eye Productions in Winston-Salem.

A big focus of the Junior League is to help its members develop leadership skills through volunteering and serving on boards of local nonprofits, and through training, Helms says.

More than half its members serve on the boards of other organizations, she says.

The organization charges dues to its members, including nearly 800 sustaining members, with roughly half those dues covering administrative expenses and the other half going to the international association.

The Junior League now is developing a plan to increase its membership through marketing and recruiting, Helms says.

In recent years, Helms says, the Junior League has adapted to the changing needs of its members.

Committee meetings, which had been held mainly during the day, have been shifted to the evening, for example, and many volunteer opportunities now are available weekends.

The Junior League also has launched an e-newsflash that features time-sensitive news and will be published every other Monday, and it plans soon to launch an email newsletter that will feature the same content the organization publishes in its print newsletter.

Now, the organization is looking for new strategies to enlist new members.

“We are constantly trying to find ways to recruit or get the word out,” Helms says. “Anyone can join. We encourage all women to think about joining.”

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