As with life in general, the worst of times bring out the best in all of us. Over the last weeks as Harvey and Irma raged on, the stories began to pour in of small and large acts of kindness, community to community, League to League. I am so proud, though not surprised, to see The Junior League stepping up as a source of support, engagement, and leadership during these challenging times.
Before Harvey made its way out of Texas, our leagues in Arlington and New Orleans organized donation drives, including gathering diapers, baby wipes, and contributions through the Junior League New Orleans’ Diaper Bank. At the same time, our Houston League started a relief fund to support rebuilding efforts. While we are one of the largest women’s volunteer organizations in the world, our support for Harvey and Irma victims shows that our Mission commits us to improving communities for all citizens. In the same spirit that our founder Mary Harriman started The Junior League as a force for improving living conditions in New York, we look to be a force for community engagement today.
And in the weeks, months, and years from now—well after the cameras leave and the news-cycle moves on from Harvey and Irma—The Junior League will still be on the ground. Not only will we continue to rebuild those communities in the immediate and medium term, but our Leagues also will strengthen those communities for the long term. If you need proof, all you need to do is look to our work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Yes, after Katrina made landfall, Leagues did what they could as quickly as they could. But just as important, possibly more so, was the work done a year later when League members from across the Association came to Rebuilding New Orleans, working with the New Orleans League to rejuvenate important community sites like City Park and building homes in Musician’s Village. And in subsequent years, the Junior League of New Orleans has continued its efforts to better serve its residents: from leading the effort to reform the city’s levee management, to garnering federal funding to improve the juvenile justice system, to directly training hundreds of people to serve and lead non-profit organizations in New Orleans today.
The connective strand of all this work is our remarkable membership. Every woman who raises a dollar, hammers a nail, packs up diapers, organizes a clean-up and sends a prayer. Every act by every member matters. The true power of our organization comes from the unsung heroines whose names are not as well known, whose faces are not as recognizable and whose work is not as widely seen. This is our true power because the everyday work of our members strengthens the social, cultural and political fabric of civil society; resulting in better opportunities for women and girls, stronger communities for men and women and a better world for all. The same power that has been at work in Texas, Florida and throughout the southern United States the last few weeks is at work every day in the 291 communities and four countries where we have a presence.
For now, AJLI will continue to share stories of support, to mobilize and coordinate league efforts, and to send our thoughts and prayers to those recovering. The worst of times not only brings out the best in us. It makes us stronger. And long after the waters recede, we, the women of The Junior League, will be there for our communities and each other.