Chatter The Junior League of Chattanooga celebrates 100 years

Chatter The Junior League of Chattanooga celebrates 100 years

October 1st, 2017 by Emily Crisman in Chatter

JLC Members Preparing a Meal for Soldiers Departing for War

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

One hundred years after its founding, the Junior League of Chattanooga hasn't changed much as an organization. "The focus is the same today as it was in 1917: bringing women together to effect community change," says Laura Ketcham, a league member since 2006 who recently took over as president.

While other women's organizations have popped up in the city since the JLC's founding, Ketcham says the league stands out due to its focus on leadership development and nonprofit service. One of the league's main goals has always been to provide members with volunteer training, which they can apply to their work at any organization. Like the local league's earliest members, today's more than 600 active and sustaining members continue to take those leadership development skills, such as fundraising and networking, and use them as a springboard for working with other nonprofits in the community, and — in today's world — their careers.

Though members aren't required to put in a certain number of volunteer hours, they do need to earn 24 "credits" annually. Volunteering is one way to earn credits. The requirement can also be fulfilled by participating on committees, attending education and training sessions, and working fundraisers.

The league adopted the credit system five years ago, giving members more freedom to create their own experience in lieu of the more specific requirements, such as attending a certain number of meetings, which members had to fulfill in the past.

As the organization approaches the conclusion of its 100th year, Ketcham sees it remaining relevant for the century to come. "I think most members get more out of the experience than they put in," she adds.

As part of the organization's centennial celebration, the JLC is reconnecting throughout the year with past partners through one-day projects involving needs identified by the organizations. JLC volunteers removed invasive plants at Reflection Riding — which the club helped establish in the '70s — painted walls and organized a closet for keeping changes of clothes at Chambliss Center for Children, and is organizing a donation drive this month for items needed at Little Miss Mag day care, which also celebrated its centennial this year.

Decades of Dedication

  • 1917: Mrs. Deaderick Moon, the first JLC president, and Mrs. C.C. Nottingham investigate, plan, arrange and introduce the Chattanooga chapter into the Association of Junior Leagues.
  • 1918: JLC provides canteen service to WWI troops at local railroad stations.
  • 1920s: JLC provides financial support for first nutrition courses in Hamilton County schools.
  • 1930s: JLC responds to the Great Depression by operating baby clinics, day nurseries, nutrition centers and milk stations.
  • 1940s: JLC provides funds and volunteers for the Child Guidance Clinic, the first outpatient mental health service in Tennessee when it was founded in 1947, now called the Helen Ross McNabb Center.
  • 1950s: JLC Puppet Program is established to provide cultural enrichment to Chattanooga's children.
  • 1960s: JLC provides funds to University of Chattanooga (now UTC) for its Talented Youth Project, which provided counseling, testing and enrichment for talented youth in the Chattanooga area.
  • 1970s: JLC helps the Chattanooga Nature Center become a reality, providing finances for a director and a chief naturalist and assisting through volunteer support.
  • 1980s: JLC begins its Mini-Grants program, awarding $20,000-plus in varying grants to Hamilton County K-12 educators each year.
  • 1990s: JLC provides aid in transforming Westside, a historic inner-city neighborhood, through a financial contribution of $400,000 over three years and projects including refurbishing the James A. Henry School building to house a "medical home," meeting rooms, job training, a family resource center, youth program and institutional kitchen.
  • 2000s: JLC begins the Healthy Starts initiative in partnership with the Hamilton County Health Department, RE:START – the Center for Adult Education, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Children's Hospital at Erlanger. The project provided volunteer support for tutoring elementary-age students at Northside Neighborhood House, and financial support to renovate and update Children's Hospital's E.R. Volunteers also sought to enhance patient advocacy at the hospital and engaged in a citywide collaboration with the public school system to educate primary-age students on self-esteem.
  • 2010s: JLC seeks to combat food deserts through its Seeds of Change initiative, partnering with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank to eliminate food deserts in Hamilton County through advocacy, educational outreach and the skills, efforts and enthusiasm of the league's trained volunteers. Food deserts are defined as areas where most residents have little or no access to fresh, healthy, affordable food, a problem that affects more than 60,000 Hamilton County residents.

Up next

The JLC changes its focus every five years. The club’s new initiative, “League of Learners,” focuses on education through a partnership with East Lake Elementary. Volunteers spent two days sprucing up the school by painting hallways and completing projects requested by teachers before students returned this year. A Spanish-speaking league member provided translation during registration and will do the same for upcoming parent-teacher conferences. JLC will hold a fall festival at the school this month, and members will incorporate lessons from the Association of Junior Leagues International’s “Kids in the Kitchen” initiative focused on teaching kids about healthy lifestyles.