Good question. Like many Leagues, the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay (JLOEB) has wrestled with it for decades. And the answer, at least in the past, has been: Start something that lasts.
Take domestic violence.
JLOEB started the Family Stress Center in 1973 as a community-based organization serving Contra Costa County with counseling, educational programs, social services and in-home support and ran the organization successfully before it was reincorporated as a stand-alone 501c3 in 1979. In 2010, with JLOEB’s support, the Family Stress Center merged with another major nonprofit in Contra Costa County, STAND! Against Domestic Violence, to become Stand! For Families Free of Domestic Violence.
JLOEB was also a long-time supporter of Stand!, which began in the late 1970s as the Battered Women’s Alternative. In the 1980s, the League and its members built a playground, ran a speakers bureau and worked with clients on how to get into mediation, move into transitional housing, and receive job training. In the early 1990s, JLOEB was instrumental in opening a childcare center for children from families that have experienced domestic violence, one of the first in the nation. More recently, in a three-year project, JLOEB raised $25,000 to build a technology resource center and provide job training and mentoring to residents.
JLOEB has also been very active – and effective – for decades on children’s literacy issues.
The East Bay Children’s Theatre (EBCT), founded by JLOEB, is the oldest continuously performing theatre group in the San Francisco Bay Area. EBCT is a nonprofit organization supported by over 45 active volunteers. Since 1933, EBCT’s main purpose has been to bring the heritage of traditional folk tales in the form of musical theatre free of charge to economically disadvantaged elementary schools in Oakland and surrounding areas.
Working with the Art League of the East Bay and the East Bay Children’s Theatre, JLOEB started the Junior Center of Art & Science. Junior Center faculty design and present programs that support and enrich the K-12 art and science curriculum in over 300 elementary and secondary school classrooms throughout Oakland and the East Bay. An annual exhibit program for elementary school students, after school and summer art and science courses for children and teens, and drop-in activities for visitors of all ages are offered throughout the year.
Super Stars Literacy, founded by JLOEB in 2002, works with children in kindergarten through second grades who exhibit significant delays in reading acquisition or reading skills development and thus are at serious risk of school failure. In addition to building literacy skills, the program seeks to build cognitive competency and emotional resiliency in students as protective factors against anti-social and violent behavior.
Looking to foster community impact generally, JLOEB started the organization now known as the Volunteer Center of the East Bay to coordinate and volunteerism to meet the needs of local nonprofit organizations and public agencies in the East Bay area.
What’s next for JLOEB? A lot of time is being spent on the League’s next focus area. The driving force in that discussion: How can we create lasting community impact – again.