It’s something we often take for granted; something that is in our organizational DNA… volunteering is not only a “good” thing, it is a powerful force for change in our communities. So, on that note, we are pleased to honor International Volunteer Day, now in its 18th year, on December 5.

What is interesting about International Volunteer Day, among many things, is how closely it hews to Mary Harriman’s original vision for The Junior League, more than a century ago. Mary Harriman, the 19-year-daughter of one of the richest men in America, brought together some of her friends (including the young Eleanor Roosevelt) to volunteer their time and energy to help desperately poor immigrants living in squalid housing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The result today, as you know, is a volunteer organization of more than 155,000 women in four countries dedicated to creating lasting civic impact in their communities.

The Junior League Movement was, in many ways, an idea ahead of its time – particularly in terms of mobilizing the talents of young women (hence the name “Junior League”) from privileged families to get out of their homes and family lives to make a difference in their communities.

And that is what International Volunteer Day is also designed to do. Sponsored by the United Nations Volunteers program, the annual event highlights what volunteer organizations and individual volunteers – particularly young people – are doing to help achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.

An ongoing objective of the program is to “work closely with partners and governments to establish national volunteer programs to create structures that foster and sustain local volunteerism.” Which, when you come down to it, is what The Junior League has been doing for 112 years!