Three Questions with JLM Sustainers: Ann Langston

Introducing Three Questions with JLM Sustainers – A new feature highlighting the inspiring legacies of our fellow Junior Leaguers.

As we reflect on our 100th year, we want to honor many of the Sustainers whose contributions have left an indelible mark on both Memphis and our JLM organization. Over the next few months in our Three Questions with JLM Sustainers feature, you’ll read fascinating stories of passion and dedication certain to deepen your pride in our amazing membership. 

Ann Langston

Imagine if Junior League of Memphis was not able to partner with any other organizations to bring about change in our city. In the century since JLM was founded, our community outreach activities have expanded the scope and reach of our good works far more than we could ever do alone. These partnerships are so integral to our mission that, in 1985, we created the Community Advisory Board (CAB), a group of talented, committed people giving their time to help enrich JLM’s impact in our most at-need communities. Board members raise our awareness on social and community issues, provide unique perspectives, and share opinions on where our time and talents are especially needed. Today, Ann Langston, past JLM President and a past CAB member, shares some of her memories of JLM’s immense positive impact on Memphis’ underserved communities.

Q1. Tell us your JLM story.
I have been a member of Junior League since 1977 as a provisional in Atlanta GA. Then, I transferred to JL Memphis after marrying a native Memphian and moving here. Immediately, I fell in love with JLM and the city of Memphis.  And I really liked trying out different Placements, both community-focused and in-League. I did both and found that regardless, my placements enabled me to fulfill a passion for community service. 

Some of my favorites were the Mother Love Project, the All About Kids show, and the Crystal Ball Chairman. 

While I was an active JLM member I learned about Church Health and fell in love with its mission to provide quality, affordable healthcare to people in low wage jobs with no access to affordable healthcare. I ended up serving there for over 23 years – starting out as a volunteer and eventually on their paid staff as Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Opportunities. So, Junior League has significantly impacted my life.

Q2. What is your favorite JLM memory?
I loved how JLM gave me the opportunity to connect and to learn – these are gifts. Pretty much every single day I would be learning something new. I would have never had the chance to do the things, and meet the people I did, without JLM.  

My favorite memories are from both community service and fundraising.

For community service, I especially remember when we started the All About Kids show at the Pipkin Center. This was a fun event for families with entertainment, giveaways, and a play area for toddlers. Families attended, kids were entertained, and all the while parents were learning about the resources available to their families. There were so many wonderful ways JLM served the community during those times – the Street Ministry Family Program, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, the Alice in Wonderland ballet, Wonders, Church Health Dental, Save This Day, Read it Again, and more.

In the early ’90’s Memphis was having hard conversations about inequities, silos, diversity, and JLM was partnering with the Community Advisory Board members to make sure that every League volunteer hour and every dollar raised were making a difference.  

After working on community placements, I transitioned to in-league placements, mostly fundraising, or as I sometimes liked to think of it as “friend-raising.”  I enjoyed being out in the community and raising awareness of the impact JLM was having and why JLM mattered; ultimately donors got interested and wanted to be a part of it. 

As much as working with donors, I found the revenue-creating projects and placements very memorable.  During my JLM Presidency, 1992-1993, we were looking for ways to combine fun with fundraising and brought back the Follies, a musical variety show held at the Cook Convention Center featuring over 100 talented amateurs. That same year we published Heart & Soul, a JLM Community Cookbook, which was promoted as “the only cookbook you’ll ever need.” We featured Memphis’ biggest names and attractions, like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Al Green, the people who had put Memphis on the map as a music city. The funds generated from these activities went to support the Community Resource Center and local organizations.

During my time as President, I remember going to as many as fifteen meetings a week, and I left each one revitalized.

Q3. What makes you smile when you get up in the morning?
That’s easy.  Traveling – anywhere and everywhere.  Reading.  Spending time with my family.

In closing, we asked Ann for her thoughts on JLM’s 100th anniversary last year.  
I was President the year we celebrated another big anniversary – the 70th. It’s important to commemorate these milestones and look back, while at the same time working with JLM members to continue the momentum. Focus not only on the organization, but the committed volunteers – those who come week after week, year after year, to do the essential work to keep local agencies and programs alive. I love that they simply see the work that needs to be done – and they do it. 
We asked a former JLM Community Advisory Board member, Ruby Bright, former President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, for her thoughts. Ruby wanted us to know what a pleasure it was working on the JLM CAB, especially with Ann Langston.

“My participation on the Junior League Community Advisory Board was one of learning and sharing my insight about students and their desire to be innovative and successful. These students were eager to learn from passionate women leaders volunteering their time to share their entrepreneurial expertise and business knowledge. The Junior League also partnered with the Women’s Foundation on helping low-income women plan for economic stability for their families. JLM and the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis have shared a long partnership – one that is truly valued as we ensure that Empowered Women, Empower Women.” 

Thanks for reading Three Questions with JLM Sustainers featuring
Ann Langston.


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