By Jennifer Taylor, President, Junior League of Memphis
The Junior League of Memphis (JLM) has experienced a lot of change throughout its 94-year history. From Mrs. Van Vleet’s founding in 1922, JLM’s mission has had a lasting impact on the city of Memphis, and its Members themselves, through change. As I reflect back on what JLM has done for Memphis, I am proud of its rich history and its evolution into the strong organization it is today. I believe in its sisterhood of 1600 women strong living the mission every day in our community.
Looking back on the significance of JLM in Memphis history, one term that comes to mind is “change-agent.” As a Provisional member in 2003, I wondered what that term meant in general and exactly how it applied to JLM. The definition of a change-agent includes the following terminology, “…a person from an organization who helps the organization transform itself.” Clearly, JLM and its members are change-agents.
In 1945, JLM opened its first thrift shop and 76 years later, the Repeat Boutique is still going strong and serving those who shop there, as well as those who benefit from its proceeds. WKNO-TV was founded by JLM in 1955 and still exists today as the public broadcasting center for the Mid-South. The JLM helped start the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center and has continued to support it since 1963 (a wonderful institution I can assure you, as I work there.) The Pink Palace was started with assistance from agencies throughout the Mid-South including JLM in 1973. In 1995 the JLM was the first entity in Memphis to recognize and respond to the huge and growing need for children affected by HIV by opening Hope House. We started G.R.O.W. (Giving, Readiness, Opportunity, Wellness) in 2010 at Lester Community Center in the Binghampton community, and in 2015 we expanded into the Berclair community. Hundreds of organizations and many thousands of lives have been improved by JLM members. JLM has changed and adapted as the needs of our community have changed and grown, and as JLM’s assets, both monetary and dedicated volunteers, have changed and grown.
My active membership in JLM began in 2004 as an auction closeout committee volunteer for the Crystal Ball. I did not know at the time what I was gaining from that experience besides seeing a major event take place. I was changed from this opportunity. I learned that I could connect with other Members, adapt to changing circumstances and be flexible.
In 2006, I joined the Merry Marketplace leadership committee and remained on Merry Marketplace leadership through 2010. At the time, I thought that it would be a fun time with friends doing a fun(d)raiser for JLM. And it was fun! In fact, it is one of my favorite placements since joining JLM. Looking back, I was transformed from these experiences and my years spent on Merry Marketplace. I learned how to manage people and a large inventory. I learned to lead and mentor others. I learned to use Excel in ways I never knew were possible. I learned to delegate. I learned to respect others’ time and my own. I learned and I learned. And from all of these learnings, I changed. I became a person who recognized that my potential had been developed as a woman and a leader. I began to believe in myself as a leader and a volunteer in my community. This made a significant impact on me personally and in my career; JLM has changed me.
I hope that during this upcoming year we all will embrace change and reflect on how JLM and its mission has impacted our lives and our city. The mission that each one of us lives each day by promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and impacting community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers, has changed Memphis. We live the mission each day so we can change the community we live in-our Memphis.