Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I Serve: Bringing Smiles

My colleague, friends and family have long since accepted that many nights I have a “Junior League thing”—especially when they see the spark that the Junior League of Washington (JLW) has added to my life since moving to D.C. nearly 8 years ago. Raised by a mother who brings new meaning to the term ‘do gooder’, a grandmother who (even into her 80s) volunteers at the town library, and later dozens of teachers at my prep school who ignited a passion for education and service in me, the JLW was the perfect organization for me to join.

Simply put, I volunteer because I love smiles. I love to smile, love to see others smile, and love to make people smile—especially those who maybe do not have as many things about which to ‘smile’. This year, I’ve had the pure pleasure of serving as the JLW’s Community Affairs Council and in that role, I’ve had the chance to be a bit of a smile fairy.

In September, over 550 of you smiled to the over 200,000 National Book Festival goers as they stood in line to meet their favorite authors, played in the PBS Kids tent, or rocked out to one of the story time bands in the Target Family Pavilion.

JLW Volunteers at the National Book Fest
Since June 2012, through joint-leadership by the Community Affairs Council and Ways and Means Council, JLW’s Resolution Read 100,000 books project has distributed nearly 50,000 books to D.C. area kids – resulting in way more than 50,000 smiles.

This fall, the Community Affairs Council, via the Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee, gave out three new grants to D.C. non-profits working to make illiteracy an issue of the past – Jubilee Jumpstart, Little Lights Urban Ministry, and Hope House, DC – resulting in many, many more smiles.

On Saturday, March 2, the Community Event Planning Committee is hosting another ‘smile-maker’ event – the free Annual Kids in the Kitchen children’s health, nutrition and fitness fair—at the YMCA National Capital (1711 Rhode Island Avenue NW) from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. At Kids in the Kitchen, children of all ages will learn how to eat smart and make healthy lifestyle choices through exciting hands-on games and demonstrations, energizing games and delicious healthy snacks. This will be my fifth Kids in the Kitchen event and I can’t wait to strap on my apron and ‘get healthy’ with the nearly 400 kids expected for Saturday’s event. 

If tasty treats and yoga-for-kids don’t get you smiling, a new partnership between the JLW, Association of Junior League International, and Colgate’s Bright Smiles Bright Futures Campaign surely will. Colgate’s Campaign, along with their Mobile Dental Van will be joining this year’s Kids in the Kitchen to provide FREE dental screenings to kids ages 1 to 12, along with a toothbrush, games and information on oral hygiene, and a ‘report card’ on their smile. As one of seven Junior Leagues selected by AJLI to partner with Colgate and the Bright Smiles Bright Futures Campaign, we are especially excited to have the van on Saturday and at Kids in the Kitchen and other JLW events in the next few months, including D.C.’s largest homeless shelter, D.C. General.

I hope to see you all on Saturday at Kids in the Kitchen, at an upcoming Resolution Read book distributions and read-aloud sessions, or other JLW events soon – I’ll be one with the big smile.

Carly Susan Rockstroh
Community Affairs Council Director

Monday, February 25, 2013

How To Help JLW With Just A Few Clicks of Your Mouse

With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can help the Junior League of Washington (JLW) tremendously. As you may know, the JLW just launched the 2013 Membership Survey. Taking this Survey is one of the most important things that you can do to help JLW. And, it only takes a few minutes to complete. You can find the link to the survey on the JLW website member page.

Why, you might ask, is the survey so important? The survey allows JLW to get feedback on aspects of League membership and helps inform us about what we can improve upon in the future. It also helps us to compare our progress this year to our progress in years’ past. Did you want to volunteer for Resolution Read but were unable to? Did you enjoy a particular Centennial Event? Do you think that JLW has a strong brand or do you think that more can be done to improve it? You can provide this feedback, and more, when you take the survey. And, your answers will be used to help make future plans for the League.

Why are the questions on the survey similar to questions from prior years? Those who have completed the survey in prior years may notice that some of the questions are the same as in prior years. This is because in order to best track our progress on particular aspects of League membership, we need to ask similar questions year to year.

Will I get to see the results? Yes, the Strategic Planning Committee will analyze the results and put together the highlights.

How much time does it take to complete the survey? Only about 5 minutes. Seriously. How easy. In the time that it has taken you to read this post, you could have already completed the survey. So, sit back, relax, and click away.

By when do I need to complete the survey? The survey will be available until March 8. But, don’t wait until then – Click now and sign in if, for no other reason, because it is something to check off your to-do list.

- Strategic Planning Committee

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

JLW Chair Extraordinaire- Amy Shuart

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and  become more, you are a leader."

- John Quincy Adams

We are proud to honor Amy Shuart, chair of Resolution Read, as JLW Chair Extraordinaire. A fourth-year Active, Amy has risen to the challenge of managing a committee that is fully immersed in the goal of donating and distributing 100,000 books in honor of our centennial anniversary. With moving parts that include multiple projects, distributions, budget negotiations and more, Amy has demonstrated tremendous leadership and grace. Her can-do attitude is contagious and children across the city, as well as her committee members, are benefiting from her dedication. Congratulations, Amy, and keep up the good work!

Did you know there are more than 125 leadership positions in the JLW?  Each year, an amazing group of women answer the call to serve and their talent and skills form the support structure upon which our organization runs. Just as we value and appreciate your membership, we appreciate their service. The JLW Chair Extraordinaire is a new award for our Centennial year. Each month, council directors may nominate a leader for consideration and one chair will be recognized by the president.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Espirit Tour and Brunch at the Corcoran Was a Rousing Success!

On Sunday, January 27, JLW members and their guests experienced guided tours and a delicious brunch at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Ann Sun and Johanna Dubay, along with other members of the Esprit Committee, did an excellent job organizing the event. Brennan Hogan, Meredith Mathis, and Heather Tierney, JLW volunteers at the Corcoran, provided the tours.

Meredith and Heather led part of the group through the Corcoran’s permanent collection, showcasing works from American and European artists whose styles span the 17th century through the mid-20th century. Brennan’s tour highlighted two temporary exhibits currently on display – Enoc Perez’s Utopia and Ivan Sigal’s White Road. Upon completing the hour-long tours, the group enjoyed brunch from Todd Gray’s Muse CafĂ©, located in the spacious and airy atrium of the Gallery.

It was a great opportunity for JLW members to see our work with one of the League’s oldest community partners. If you are interested in tours for your committee, please reach out to Meredith, Heather, or Brennan for more information.

Espirit committee member Ann Sun with Corcoran committee members Brennan Hogan, Heather Tierney, and Meredith Mathis.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why I Serve - Allison Herron, Chair of Teen Life Club

Serving as chair of the Teen Life Club (TLC) committee is an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Around this time last year, when I thought about serving in a leadership role, I thought doing so would allow me to play a more active role in giving back to the community and the Junior League of Washington (JLW) and help me develop leadership skills. Now, a year later, I can say that it has done that and so much more.

This year, I have worked closely with our community partner, TLC, discussing ideas for events and how to make a positive impact on the program participants. I have spent time learning about the lives of the amazing youth and families who participate in TLC. I have also worked with other women in leadership, learning about the wonderful work taking place on their committees throughout the League and continually being inspired by all they do to make the JLW a positive place for all of its members. I have benefited from formal leadership training, hearing great ideas for motivating a team, working to meet goals, and planning projects and events. I have also had such a wonderful time with the other women on TLC - learning from them, having fun with them, and building friendships that I hope will last for years to come. In sum, serving as a leader has given me much more than I could have hoped.

I encourage everyone in the JLW to take advantage of all it has to offer - attend a training or new event, consider leadership, volunteer to do something extra on your committee, or reach out to someone you met at a JLW activity. It may exceed even your best expectations.

One way to explore what JLW has to offer is to attend the Placement Information Events at JLW Headquarters on Saturday, April 13 in the morning or on Thursday, April 25 in the evening (and it's a membership credit)! Check for additional details.

 Allison Herron, Chair, Teen Life Clubs

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Reading Celebration!

Across the District of Columbia this year, the Junior League of Washington's Resolution Read is helping to put 100,000 books in the hands of kids. This past Tuesday at Neval Thomas Elementary, JLW members were on hand to celebrate with fourth and fifth graders at a book distribution with Reading is Fundamental, and I was lucky enough to be on hand to see Resolution Read's work in action.

Students listened attentively to award-winning author Kelly Starling Lyons read from her new book Hope's Gift, a story of a family that is freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The author gave the children instructions on responses to certain lines from the book; whenever she said, "Nothing can keep freedom from coming," the children would all respond, "Nothing!"

The students, shown here with author Kelly Starling Lyons, each chose two brooks to bring home.
[Photo Credit: Reading is Fundamental]
After the reading, Kelly Starling Lyons spoke with the children about being an author and what inspires her writing. The students named their favorite books, including Harry Potter and Amelia Bedelia. I could see these students clearly had a love for reading and were excited to have new books to dig into!

JLW President Wendy Cumberland and 
JLW members Carly Rockstroh and Amber Huffman 
chat with Pat Mara at the distribution.
There were more special guests on hand as well. Mary Lord and Pat Mara, both members of the DC Board of Education, were on hand to talk about the importance of reading and how projects like Resolution Read are helping kids in the DC schools.

JLW members were on hand to help children choose their books. There were so many to choose from, though I couldn't help but notice many kids choosing Goosebumps books! What a great memory; I remember reading Goosebumps books when I was that age, too!

This one book distribution had been so exciting for the students, and it is thrilling to think that the JLW is making it possible for distributions like this to happen across DC. I'd encourage members to support Resolution Read in any way they can, either through participating in a distribution or through supporting fundraising efforts like Fete this Saturday night.

As the JLW marks 100 years in the community, it's so great to see the League's work help instill a love of reading in students that will last a lifetime. Seeing it in person, it's enough to give you...well...goosebumps!

Kristen Soltis,  Public Relations Committee Chair

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I serve: Elizabeth Keys

Why JLW?

My grandmother always says that you can tell what a person values by her checkbook and her calendar.  If I look at mine, I see a board meeting here, a Resolution Read shift there; I see a Centennial Frame Shop contribution here, a Tossed & Found Community Cash Card donation there.  But of all the great organizations around, why do I choose JLW?

Simple:  because JLW changes lives.  Period.  Have you ever seen a Langley Residential Support Services consumer’s face light up when he sees his favorite JLW volunteer?  Have you ever watched a kid at National Book Festival when a JLW member moves her through the book signing line to meet her favorite author? Have you ever visited with the senior who says visiting with the JLW IONA Senior Services committee members who deliver his meals on Saturday is the highlight of his week?   

Have you ever seen the pride a child takes in the book of her very own that a JLW volunteer gives her to take home?  We change lives.

Have you ever watched a friend hone her skills by chairing a JLW committee?  Have you ever taken on a project for JLW that allowed you to try something new?  Have you ever developed a deep relationship with a woman who was on a committee with you?  Have you ever learned something at a Development & Training session that you used at home or work?  We change lives.

I give my time and money to JLW because I know that we, you and I together, change lives.  We change lives in our community, and we change each other’s lives.  Because of JLW, I have given grants, I have written press releases, I have taken golf lessons, I have hugged children, I have crafted strategic plans, I have learned self defense techniques, I have given away books, I have met the Treasurer of the United States, I have made wonderful friends, I have raised money, I have planted an herb garden, I have learned literacy facts, I have picked merchants for Holiday Shops, I have read students’ poems.  I have received a hefty return on every hour I have volunteered and every dollar I have donated.  JLW changes lives.  It has certainly changed mine.

We have included here hyperlinks that will direct readers to information on Resolution Read, Tossed & Found and the Centennial Frame Shop.  For more information on how to support JLW, please click here or contact us at

Elizabeth Keys
JLW Secretary, 2012/2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Giving the Gift of a Lifelong Love of Reading

As part of the Junior League of Washington's Resolution Read initiative, JLW is once again partnering with Reading is Fundamental (RIF) to put over 13,000 books in the hands of DC children in Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8.  The students at Neval Thomas Elementary are in for a special treat, as the spotlight school for this distribution. February marks Black History Month, and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the event will feature Kelly Starling Lyons, the author of "Hope's Gift," a story about a family in the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Throughout the month of February, JLW and RIF will distribute 13,000 free books to 6,500 children in twenty District of Columbia Public Schools.

JLW members will be on hand to help distribute books to students, as students will be free to choose two books to take home along with literacy activity worksheets.

During December, JLW members attended distributions across the district, distributing books and participating in fun activities with the students. Members read aloud to students, and in some cases, students even read back to the volunteers? "I had three 5th grade boys request to read their book to me because they thought it was so funny. They each took turns reading the book to me and said it was my turn,"
said Jenny Paxton, member of the JLW of the December distribution at KIPP DC AIM Academy.

The distribution at Neval Thomas Elementary on February 5th is just one of the many distribution and volunteer opportunities for JLW members this month. Additionally, anyone can support Resolution Read by donating online. We look forward to seeing you at a shift!