Junior League of Winston-Salem: Celebrating 100 Years of Community Spirit

photos by 29 and 11th PHOTOGRAPHY

In March of 1923, Katharine Reynolds Johnston gathered with a group of 40 ladies on the lake porch of Reynolda House and pondered how they could become more involved in the community. That simple afternoon tea launched a strong mission, and the Junior League of Winston-Salem — the first chapter in North Carolina — was born.

With their sights and energy set on continuing to advance women’s leadership through volunteer action, collaboration, and training, the Winston-Salem Junior League has nearly 1,000 members now, including 250 active members currently. And this year the Junior League is proudly celebrating its 100th anniversary!

Current President Carrie Vickery shared plans for the three-fold Centennial celebration. The first event — the Junior League Gala  — was held March 25 at Forsyth Country Club. Members celebrated with dinner and dancing, and approximately 55 past presidents of the group were in attendance for the momentous Past Presidents’ Champagne Toast. (And the oldest living past president also joined the festivities!)

The second part of the celebration is an all-important Community Gift. “We have a history of making gifts on each anniversary,” says Carrie. “This year’s anniversary gift is a new endowment to the Winston-Salem Foundation called the Junior League of Winston-Salem Literacy & Equity Fund.”

The fund’s specific purpose is to provide funding, in the form of “mini grants” for individual schools or PTAs within the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system.  “Our goal is $100,000, but teachers can begin applying now,” explains Carrie, noting the application process will be simple, and can be for small amounts like $200-$250 for a teacher to purchase needed supplies. “It’s a very grassroots effort!”

The third piece of the celebration includes two exhibitions to celebrate the Junior League’s work through the years. From now until the end of the year, an exhibit of the group’s history will be on display on the Lake Porch at Reynolda House, marking the venue where those early civic-minded women set the wheels in motion. The exhibit is open to the public, and will educate museum-goers on the Junior League of Winston-Salem’s place in the history of the Reynolda Estate. A second exhibit this fall on the second floor of the Central Library (where the Junior League archives are held) will spotlight the group’s powerful community work.

Each individual Junior League adopts its own focus, and the local group’s focus is women’s health and children’s literacy — two vital elements in our community! Now in her 10th year of membership, Carrie says she was drawn to the organization for the chance to volunteer in a purposeful fashion. She explains that each member receives a “placement” to earn volunteer hours — typically with a local non-profit, or one of the Junior League signature placements such as “Strong Women, Strong Families.” As part of that initiative, and in keeping with the health and literacy focus, the League holds health fairs at local Title 1 schools a few times a year, offering medical providers onsite and a healthy meal for parents and students.

While in 1923 the Junior League may have more reflected “ladies who lunch,” today’s membership is comprised of a large number of working women — from all professions around the community — and all making a difference! If you are interested in becoming a member of the Junior League of Winston-Salem, visit JLWS.org. The membership year runs from June-to-June, and new members begin as provisionals, then become active members, and after 10-plus years, become sustainers — for life! Even if you only plan to reside in Winston-Salem for a short time, members can transfer to any chapter in the United States or around the world, at any time.

The Junior League of Winston-Salem is located at 131 Liberty View Lane, Suite 201, Winston-Salem, 336-722-9681. Visit their website at JLWS.org and follow them on Instagram @juniorleaguews. You can reach Carrie Vickery at president@jlws.org for more information on membership and community projects.


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