Monday, January 30, 2012

Making a big city seem smaller

One of the reasons I decided to join Junior League of Washington was because I wanted to make a big city seem smaller. I also wanted to meet women with similar interests with whom I could form lasting friendships.

The Junior League of Washington is such a large organization of women with numerous events each year that many times you do not see the same people again at another event. It can also be hard to get to know someone and make connections in such a large group of people.

In order to meet a group of ladies in my same geographical area with similar interests, I joined JLW Small Groups. JLW Small Groups are groups of women that want to meet other members who share the same interests. In order to get placed in a group we are asked to fill out a questionnaire.

The survey to sign-up for your small group asks questions such as what would you like to get out of your group, what sort of activities you would like to do in your small group, what type of women would you like to be grouped with and where would you like to meet with your group.

After filling out a questionnaire and being placed in a small group, you attend a small group event sponsored by JLW in order to meet the girls in your group. For the fall small group event, we participated in a blind wine tasting event. I had a great time meeting the members in my group in such an interesting way.

Small groups are open in the fall and the spring. For my fall small group, we decided to meet early on a Friday night for dinner at a restaurant in our area. We really enjoyed each other’s company and had a great conversation. We are also planning on meeting for a brunch or for dinner before the holiday season gets underway.

I enjoyed my fall small group so much that I’ve decided to participate in the spring as well. I filled out a second questionnaire hoping to be grouped with girls in my area that would like to attend events around town together, meet after work for gatherings and attend JLW events together. I am looking forward to the spring small groups event and to meeting my new small group.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Targeting Literacy Through Resolution Read

As a child, the time I looked most forward to was before bedtime, when my dad would read my sister, Maureen and I our favorite stories. Fifteen Minute Bedtime Stories, anything by Beatrix Potter or about Ramona and Beezus Quimby and the Dr. Seuss books were our favorites. Each weekend, we would go to the book mobile or library and pick out new books, and as we got older and read at night on our own, we devoured The Baby-sitter's Club and Sweet Valley Twins.

Unfortunately, a head start involving reading is not as idyllic for all children, youth and families in our community. Many children in the DC area lack reading materials and often reading is not commonplace in their homes. This month, JLW set out to promote reading and books as a critical resource targeting literacy through Resolution Read!. Along with fellow JLW volunteers Maya and Angel, I had the privilege of reading with the children at St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville, MD. Sister Kate was a fantastic cheerleader in promoting reading to the children at St. Ann's. To my delight, my assigned kids, Elijah and Saniya, were totally engaged in reading. Elijah, age 6, read to his sister, Saniya, and me several books: Where the Wild Things Were, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Go Dog Go! Elijah was a very strong reader and it was amazing as he read book after book before he decided that we read Flat Stanley together. It was a wonderful afternoon to kick off my personal goal of supporting our community partners and literacy mission as well as my own efforts to read more in 2012. Sr. Kate told us we were a hit,  as too often the kids receive food or toy donations but the personal touch of reading out loud with our new friends at St. Ann's made such a difference! I hope Elijah and Saniya will remember their time spent reading as much as I fondly recall my early days falling in love with books.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New experiences with JLW

Growing up, my summer job was as a lifeguard at our neighborhood pool. I never got to experience what it was like to work at the mall or at a retail store. I’d like to say that my first time working as a retail salesperson was a complete success.

Since joining the Junior League this year, I heard so much about A Capital Collection of Holiday Shops and I was very excited to experience it for myself. I chose to work the event on Sunday during a shift where I would be able to work a booth and sell items.

I ended up being placed at a fabulous linen shop, Hen House Designs, with a wonderful shop owner. After a quick introduction on how to use the cash register, I was ready to get out there and start selling. It wasn’t before long that I went from listening to the store owner and learning about the products, to telling the customers all about them as if I had worked at the store for months. I had a wonderful time interacting with shoppers, making sales and chatting with the owner of the store about how she started her business, how she runs it and her plans for the store's future.
My living room make-over with tips and products from Hen House Designs

It was hard not to eye all of the dinner napkins, pillows, hand towels and kitchen items and think about how I could use them in my own home. Along with all of the other customers, the store owner worked with me to create a new look for my dining room table, kitchen and even my sofa by adding some new pillows.

I had a blast helping out and selling such beautiful items that my shift flew by. When I was relieved from my shift, I didn't want to leave! With all of these new retail skills under my belt, next year I’ll be sure to sign up for multiple shifts, or even A Capital Collection as my full placement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Does the thought of going through that box that has been sitting in your garage or basement overwhelm you? Do you wish someone would clear out that hall closet while you are out so you wouldn't have to do it? Spring cleaning is one of those items that can stay on your "to do" list for weeks, even months. But once you have tackled the task of getting those boxes, closets and basements cleared, you always feel better. Now what do you do with those items that you no longer want or need? That is the easy part. Donate those goods and give them a new life!

For 11 years, I have been cleaning out my closets, cabinets and garage for the Tossed and Found Rummage Sale. What started out as an annoying membership requirement, quickly became a favorite way to make new space, support a JLW fundraiser and allowed me to recycle my gently used goods back into the community.

The rummage sale grew on me. My journey on the Tossed and Found Committee began as a half placement and I admit that I was a reluctant participant that first year. I didn't know anyone on the committee and the thought of sorting other member's donated items was not my idea of a good weekend. In fact, it sounded like a waste of time. But something happened while organizing all the interesting items our membership donates. I made friends and discovered that this rummage sale isn't just about raising funds to support the JLW mission. It was about the clothes, the electronics, the house wares and the furniture that our shoppers joyfully took home. These donated items were not just bargains, they were great finds in the eyes of the beholder.

I served on Tossed and Found for seven years and I realized over that time period that the sale really reached our diverse Washington, D.C. community. And with the economy struggling, our reach has grown, providing the JLW a great opportunity to share our story and increase our awareness. Our shoppers include JLW members, bargain hunters, antique dealers and families or individuals in transition, to name a few. They come from different parts of the city and all are looking for a different need. So, when you finally get around to your spring cleaning, donate your gently used items to the JLW Tossed and Found Rummage Sale. As a member you will be fulfilling a requirement. But you will also be giving your items a new life, supporting our mission and reaching the community in another way. Now, doesn't that feel good?

For information about the 2012 Tossed and Found Rummage Sale, click here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Resolution Read!

I recently had a star-struck moment when volunteering with JLW New Members, JLW Sustainer, Diane Berinstein; and JLW Treasurer, Jennie Kronthal, at the Society for the Prevention of Blindness' American Girl Fashion Show and Tea fundraiser. There, just a few feet away from me and the young models I was in charge of for the day was one of my childhood literary heros-- Valerie Tripp.
Thankfully Valerie is a very sweet woman who graciously accepted my gushing and stammering over how she "made me a reader" as a young girl. Her stories of Molly, Felicity, and Samantha's adventures in historical times captivated me as a young girl and, judging by the thrones of young girls and their parents at the new American Girl store in Tyson's, many other young girls "readers" as well.

I am certain that you all have favourite authors from when you were young who you enjoyed reading. You probably also have wonderful memories of reading with your parents or older siblings/cousins. My parents and I used to read together every night before I went to bed and slowly progressed from books like "The Golden Egg" (my first book) and "Blueberries for Sal" to "The Bobsy Twins", "Babysitters Club" series, and of course, Valerie Tripp's American Girl stories. Now, I am a full-force Kindle addict and read about one book each week (full-time consulting gig and JLW activities permitting!)

Unfortunately, far too many children in our country do not have the same childhood memories. Only 1 home out of every 10 homes living in poverty have an adult who can read aloud to child. When I think about what an influence my early reading years were with my parents, I shudder to think the long-lasting impact not having been read aloud to could have on a child.

In the spirit of the New Year, our JLW mission focus of Literacy, and efforts by many DC organizations to help children develop their own literacy skills, the JLW Literacy Event Planning Committee is kicking off 2012 with a brand-new event aimed at promoting literacy with DC children in one of the simplest ways… reading aloud. We will be visiting programs, schools, libraries, and book stores throughout the month of January to read and facilitate “discussion” activities with kids and encouraging them to make a New Year’s resolution to read more. At month’s end, we will quantify just how much the JLW was able to read aloud in just one month’s time.

We are thrilled to be partnering with local organizations who also likewise committed to promoting literacy with DC kids such as the YMCA, the DC Public Library, Excel Academy, the Washington Jesuit Academy, the Rosemont Center, Bright Beginnings, St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home, Early Head Start, the Boys and Girls Club, and The Fishing School - J.O Wilson for the first ever JLW Resolution Read. Stay tuned to the JLW website each week for an update on where the JLW Resolution Readers will be headed. You can join in the fun yourself by reading aloud with the young people in your own life. Together, we can turn our reading resolution into a reading revolution in 2012!