Gathering brings 629 delegates to Orlando to connect with one another and share best practices

At approximately one o’clock on Thursday, April 15, the lights of the grand ballroom at Orlando’s Rosen Centre went dim as Junior League presidents, presidents-elect, and presidents-elect-elect filed through the doors for the opening session of AJLI’s 88th Annual Conference. Processing two-by-two in groups organized according to the decade in which their Leagues were founded, they made their way to their seats where they watched an edgy new video entitled “We Are The Junior League” celebrating the collective power of the 160,000 women of The Junior League and issuing a call to action as civic leaders.

AJLI Board President Debbie Brown Robinson presided over the session and, following the performance of the national anthems of the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, and the United States — and greetings from each delegation’s head of state — she issued a roll call by founding decade that prompted enthusiastic applause and cheers from all corners of the room. (Later in the conference, the newest member of the Association, The Junior League of Guadalajara, was welcomed with a special video).

By late afternoon, the group was re-convening for the Opening Plenary at which Executive Director Susan Danish and Chief Officer for Strategic Initiatives Anne Dalton reported on the progress made to date on the Strategic Roadmap (82 League visits; 35 conference calls; numerous document downloads), and shared along with members of the various Design Teams, how we will put theory into action over the next 18 months.  Later that evening, delegates traveled en masse to Universal CityWalk where several Leagues tested their skill at a karaoke bar.

  • Rising Star Award Winner
    Jenny Barker, Junior League of Nashville, TN
  • Rising Star Award Winner
    Tonda West, Junior League of Montgomery, AL
  • JL Award for Fund Development Winner
    Junior League of Baltimore, MD
  • JL Award for Marketing and Communication Winner
    Junior League of Baton Rouge
  • JL Award for Membership Development Winner
    Junior League of New Orleans, LA
  • JL Award for Vision Winner
    Junior League of Mexico City
  • FRP Junior League Cookbook Award Winner
    Junior League of Hampton Roads, VA
  • Junior Leagues’ in the Kitchen with Kids Award Winner
    Junior League of Durham & Orange Counties, NC
  • 2010 Leadership Development Award Winner
    Junior League of Los Angeles, CA
  • 2010 Community Impact Award Winner
    Junior League of Springfield, MO

Friday morning brought the first half of the Association Dialogue in which delegates discussed and vetted the need to re-engineer the Association’s revenue model and explored the viability of diversified funding streams, including a possible dues increase. The discussion was followed by a luncheon at which Emily Anne Staples Tuttle, a sustainer with 56 years of membership in The Junior League of Minneapolis, was honored with the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award.

Admitting she was “blown away” by the honor, Staples Tuttle invoked the words of Mahatma Ghandi in saying, “Each one of us has the responsibility to shape the future as we wish it to be.” A former Minnesota state senator, county commissioner, gubernatorial advisor, and pioneer in educational television programming for children, she credited her League training with her successful entry into the public sector.

Friday’s keynote address was delivered by Sheila C. Johnson, owner-partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the NBA’s Washington Wizards, and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. A filmmaker and a humanitarian, Johnson shared a series of anecdotes illustrating both the persistent inequalities between men and women in our society and her own journey to overcome them. After showing moving trailers of two of her films, she exhorted the audience to join her in a resounding recitation of her favorite affirmation, “I am powerful.”

In between general sessions throughout the three-day conference, delegates attended a robust and varied array of breakout sessions and workshops customized by League size and designed to foster dialogue, build leadership skills and share best practices.  Among the offerings were workshops on the Strategic Roadmap, which focused specifically on effective community impact, Collaborative Decision-Making, Advocating in a Tough Economy Through SPACs and PACs, League Initiatives in Nutrition and Childhood Obesity and Integrated Web Communications.

The second Association Dialogue picked up the revenue question, debated the linguistic merits of civic leadership vs. community leadership and voted overwhelmingly to request the AJLI Board to explore the possibility of taking a public position on the issue of human trafficking. In addition, the delegates requested that the Board consider establishing an External Resolutions Process, paving the way for The Junior League to raise its collective voice on a host of public policy issues of national and international significance.

The highlight of the conference may have been Saturday night’s much anticipated Awards Dinner at which twelve Leagues received awards in seven categories ranging from innovative cookbook production to creative membership development strategy. Big winners included The Junior League of Springfield (Missouri), which took home the Community Impact prize for Isabel’s House; The Junior League of Los Angeles which nabbed the Leadership Development prize for its Public Policy Institute, and The Junior League of Mexico City whose Ninos Cocinando won the award for Vision. Jenny Barker of The Junior League of Nashville and Tonda West of The Junior League of Montgomery were the recipients of the two 2010 Rising Star Awards.

Following the awards presentation, AJLI Board President Debbie Brown Robinson welcomed incoming AJLI Board President Delly Beekman onto the stage. The two traded dueling slide shows, reflected on their respective Junior League experiences, and stood by as conference host, The Junior of Greater Orlando, officially passed the torch for the 2011 Annual Conference to The Junior League of Philadelphia.