The Junior League of Little Rock was organized in 1914 as an auxiliary to the United Charities, forerunner to the present United Way. The group separated from United Charities in 1921 in order to establish its own projects, and in 1922 affiliated with the Association of Junior Leagues. In 1929, the Junior League of Little Rock was incorporated.
The League's first project was the Baby Welfare Station, headquartered at the Arsenal in McArthur Park. The center provided medical examinations for infants and pre-school children as well as instruction in health care for mothers. In keeping with League philosophy, the project was turned over to the City of Little Rock in 1937. The year 1937 also saw the establishment of the Visiting Nurses Association.
In 1928, the League began the first of many cultural projects in the community by forming the Arts and Interest Committee. Activities stemming from the establishment of the committee included puppet shows, children's theater and Saturday morning movies. In the mid 1930's League members produced plays and created their own productions, taking them to schools throughout the area.
From the onset of World War II, League members concentrated on the war effort, but in 1947 returned to peace-time projects with the establishment of the Speech Correction School. League volunteers operated the school until 1955 when the service was transferred to the Little Rock Public School System.
1950's - Arkansas Arts Center
In the mid 1950's, the League sponsored a conference for the disabled which resulted in the publication of a directory of facilities for the disabled throughout Arkansas. Also at this time, the League produced Story Teller Hours for television, which promoted children's interest in the Public Library's facilities. The League then financed five promotional films which were made available to schools, hospitals, and other television stations.
In 1957-1958, the membership voted to undertake one of its most ambitious projects-the establishment of a community center of Arts and Sciences. Today, the Arkansas Arts Center serves the entire state. In 1963, the City presented a plaque to the League in recognition of its leadership in establishing the Arts Center. An Arts Committee was formed within the League in 1965 to direct the membership's cultural projects and the following year an Art Awareness Program was organized in the public elementary schools.
1960's - Bargain Box, Gaines House
The Bargain Box opened in 1962 with great success. Beginning as a $3,000 venture, the Bargain Box was the major source of Community Trust Fund revenue. The Bargain Box operated for fifteen years and closed in December 1977.
The commitment to quality health service for the community was emphasized by the establishment of the League's Health and Welfare Committee in 1958. By 1966, the League joined with the Pulaski County Association for Mental Health and the Arkansas Rehabilitation Center to establish Gaines House, a home which helps women adjust to community life after hospitalization.
1970's - Little Rock Cooks, Riverfest, Bargain Barn
Through the years, the League's money-raising techniques have been varied. In 1970, another major fund-raising project, a cookbook, Little Rock Cooks was approved. In 1973, the original ten thousand copies of the cookbook were sold, and by 1977, the book was in its fifth printing.
During summer 1971, a series of children's movies was sponsored by the League. The series ran for three summers with a net profit of approximately $8,000.
The early 1970's also saw the League make major contributions to two important segments of the Little Rock community: senior citizens and children. The Health and Welfare Committee's Seminar on the Aging resulted in the creation of the Pulaski County Council on the Aging. League volunteer hours and financial aid also have given much help to SCAT. In 1972, the League sponsored a Child Abuse Seminar in cooperation with the Pulaski County Mental Health Association and the State 4-C Committee. As a result, Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) was adopted as a project in 1973. A special money-raising project, the Emerald Ball, was held in September 1974, the proceeds going to SCAN and the Community Trust Fund. In 1974-75, the League continued its commitment to the interests of children by voting to pursue a project for the teaching of the pre-school hearing impaired.
The 1970's also saw the expansion of League activity in many areas of community life. A seminar on the environment led to the founding of Environment, Inc. Additionally, the League's Information and Referral Service expanded and eventually merged with KARK-TV's Call for Action. In cooperation with the Child Study Center, the League's Project Parents and Youth developed the Parent Package, a transactional analysis program. The League joined with other community groups in establishing and/or financing additional projects in Little Rock. Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) was founded, and the Berkeley Project, a new method of teaching health to 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, became a pilot program in the public schools. In 1972-73, the League organized the Choral Group which brought music and singing to the senior citizens.
Through the years the League supported the Museum of Science and Natural History and the Youth Orchestra. The establishment of the Arts in Education project led to the League's co-financing of the Arts in Education coordinator's position in the Little Rock Public Schools.
In 1975, another unique fund-raising project was initiated in conjunction with the Arkansas Democrat and its syndicated food columnist, Helen Corbitt. The Helen Corbitt Cooking School netted over $4,000 for the Community Trust Fund.
Trapnall Hall, one of Arkansas' most important architectural structures, served as the Junior League of Little Rock's home from 1929 until its sale in 1976. A major renovation in 1963 led to Trapnall Hall's listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The House was used extensively by the community for social events as well as meetings and conferences. In 1974 a special committee was formed to research ways to relieve the Community Trust Fund of the expense of maintaining Trapnall Hall while preserving it for the community. In 1976, the State of Arkansas bought Trapnall Hall for the appraised value of $182,000. The State assumed responsibility for Trapnall Hall's maintenance and preservation. Trapnall Hall continues to be used frequently by the community.
In 1976-77, the membership voted to pursue the following projects: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Operatory, and the Summer Arts Festival.
The Summer Arts Festival first was held in August 1977 with a highlight being the appearance of the American Wind Symphony. The League continued to be the major sponsor of this annual event after the event was renamed Riverfest and held over Memorial Day weekend. In 1983 Riverfest was moved to its permanent home, the new Riverfront Park. The City of Little Rock now continues Riverfest which serves as a popular activity for many thousands of people each year.
Three events of major importance took place in 1978-79; the first Bargain Barn sale was held; the membership voted to establish the Parent Center; and Alice Weber, President of the Association of Junior Leagues, visited Little Rock.
In 1979-80, the Junior Leagues in Arkansas voted in the State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC). The Parent Center was officially opened in September of 1980. The League pledged $160,000 to The Parent Center over a five-year term.
1980's - Traditions, Potluck
A study made by a special Admissions Study Committee in 1980 resulted in combining the Admissions and Provisional Committees. This combined committee became known as the Admissions/Provisional Training Committee.
Anne B. Hoover, Second Vice President of the Association of Junior Leagues, visited the League in November 1981, and led a training workshop for the membership. In fall 1981, the membership voted to publish a new cookbook, Traditions, A Taste of the Good Life. Traditions went to press in spring 1983 and proved to be very successful.
In 1982, the newly created office of Community Vice-President was added to the Executive Committee. The Advocate Exchange for the Handicapped and the Museum Education Expansion Program were approved as new projects in spring 1982.
New projects approved in 1983 were Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Arkansas History and Culture Curriculum and supplemental funding for the Parent Center. The membership also approved the purchase of a computer to facilitate League record keeping.
The League and the other four Arkansas Junior Leagues hosted the Area V Seminar in Little Rock in April 1984. Delegates for all 44 area Junior Leagues attended.
In 1984, Bucket Brigade and the International Youth Enrichment Exchange Project were adopted. The Parent Center was funded for its last year. The new office of Marketing Vice-President was added to the Executive Committee. Public Relations and Marketing committees were combined and solicitation efforts were refined. A Project Study schedule was implemented.
In 1985-86, the League hosted the Second Annual State Board Meeting in September. A luncheon was held for delegates attending the National Governor's Conference on Education. A successful move to our new headquarters at 3600 Cantrell Road was completed by June 1, 1986.
In 1986-87 the League celebrated its 65th birthday with an open house in the new headquarters and also by offering a concert to members and the community. The Temptations headlined the concert, which also served as a fundraiser for the League.
A Legislative Breakfast and a Legislative Luncheon were hosted during the year. The membership voted to focus its energies in two specific areas for the next two years: teen pregnancy and literacy.
In 1987-88, the Junior League of Little Rock began a collaborative effort with the Coalition for Youth at Risk to begin a center modeled after a project in Harlem founded by Dr. Michael Carrera entitled "The Multi-Service Family Life and Sex Education Program." A one-year planning committee was approved by the membership. The League also helped organize a consumer hotline, called "Seven On Your Side," along with KATV, Channel 7, that began operation in October 1987. Riverfest celebrated its 10th anniversary at Riverfront Park. The League also approved the merger of JLLR Publications and Impressions to streamline its operations.
In 1989-90, the League welcomed Maridel Moulton, President of AJLI, to its November General Meeting. A new project was approved: Little Rock Potluck. This project matches establishments routinely having surplus food with shelters feeding the hungry. New focus areas approved were Literacy and Youth at Risk.
1990's - Holiday House, Apron Strings, Museum
The League published Private Tour - At Home In Arkansas, a book featuring Arkansas homes, in 1990. This was a collaborative fundraising effort of the League and the Arkansas Easter Seal Society. The League participated in an Association-wide special event on Immunization. Wonders of Work (WOW) also received the League's support and became a new project.
The League celebrated "Seventy Years of Service" in 1991-92.
The League continued to finance its projects and involvements through Bargain Barn, Riverfest Novelty Sales, and JLLR Publications. Two new fundraisers were highly successful: Holiday House, a holiday shopping market held in November; and Birthday Bash, a special 70th anniversary spring dance held in February.
The 1991-92 projects and involvements were: Computer Play, Exceller, International Student Enrichment Exchange, Reading Aloud Renaissance, and Wonders of Work. Riverfest continued as a special event.
The membership passed the following projects and involvements for1992-93: Children's Museum of Arkansas, Foundations for the Future, Parent Power, and PALS & CCP. The year was spent studying and communicating with other Leagues regarding the AJLI Partnership Project, a revision of all AJLI governing documents, which were adopted at the 1992 Annual AJLI Conference. New projects approved in 1993 included Green Circle, Community Bank and Potluck.
The year 1993-94 was one of self-evaluation and visioning for the League. These efforts resulted in a new vision statement and a movement toward a goal-centered approach to the League's methodology. New projects approved in 1994 included Arkansas Children's Hospital "Kids' TV," Cornerstone Community Project, Helping Children Cope with Divorce, and RAINbows and Ribbons. During the course of 1993-94, $91,000 was given to the community, in addition to the League's volunteer labor. The League also adopted Children's Issues as a three-year focus area.
In response to the membership's desire to maximize community impact by concentrating its efforts on one large project rather than several smaller projects, the Education and Outreach Through the Museum project was developed and approved by the membership in 1994-95. In 1995-96, the project Education and Outreach Through the Museum was initiated for the Arkansas Museum of Science and History, now known as the Museum of Discovery. The League approved a League-wide shift requirement with the Arkansas Museum of Science and History and agreed to underwrite the "Imagination Station" at the museum's new site that opened in 1998 in the Riverfront area of downtown Little Rock.
The League celebrated its 75th anniversary as a volunteer force during the 1996-97 year. A celebration dance was held in February 1997 at Rick's Armory. A donation was made to the city of Little Rock to the "Trees for Tomorrow" project for the purchase of two trees to be placed in front of the new Museum Center. The League continued its projects involving Education and Outreach through the Museum, Arkansas Children's Hospital Kids' TV, Community Bank, Cornerstone Project Community Partnership, Potluck and Growing through Divorce. The League also approved a third cookbook, and recipe research and development began. Holiday House continued to grow. The pricing format of Bargain Barn was changed and members brought sale items to the Bargain Barn the week of the sale rather than turning in items prior to the sale. The Bargain Barn was financially successful as volunteer hour requirements were reduced.
The highlights of the 1997-98 year included the successful introduction of the newest League cookbook, Apron Strings - Ties to the Southern Tradition of Cooking. The League's signature project, the Museum of Discovery, was relocated. Potluck, Inc.was named as an honorable mention winner of the AJLI and BMW Community Impact Award. The League approved a reorganization of its Board structure and prepared for a move from a Cluster System to a Council System of governance. The League also installed a new computer system that was installed in spring 1997.
The 1998-99 League year was one of considerable change as the JLLR transitioned to a Council System form of governance. Emphasis was placed on transferring management type decisions to the council level, allowing the Board to concentrate on policy development. The JLLR Bylaws and Policies were revised in an effort to begin creating a comprehensive policy document from which the Councils could operate. In addition, an Annual Campaign was initiated to increase the JLLR endowment fund to an amount from which rent and other administrative expenses could be paid. The Membership approved the reprinting of the JLLR's first two cookbooks, Little Rock Cooks and Traditions, which will be available in October 1999.
The 1999-2000 League year contributed a record number of hours to the community through the efforts of our 10 community projects. A number of these projects were new this year including Awareness of Breast Cancer, ArtReach, Boardwalk, Nightingales, Project 2000, Tomberlin and YES!. In addition, our fund raising events Bargain Barn and Holiday House increased funds raised. Our cookbooks sales for , Apron Strings, Little Rock Cooks, and Traditions were also successful. The transition of the JLLR organization to a Council System form of governance continues with a downsized board of 13 members and 5 councils. This allowed the board to concentrate on the update and modification of League policies while the councils handled league management issues.
2000 to Today
The 2000-2001 Board initiated the first year in a three-year strategic plan to reach the following goals:
- Increase volunteers in the community to 50% of active membership by 2003
- Return 60% of Ways and Means revenue to the community by 2003
- Increase membership satisfaction annually
- Increase public awareness of JLLR community service
- Establish a comprehensive and effective technology plan by May 2001
The technology plan goal was met and the 2001-2002 Board reviewed and revised the three year strategic plan at their Board retreat in June 2001. These goals are reviewed and modified annually by each Board of Directors.
During 2001-2002, members of our League successfully completed 12 community projects: ABC; ArtReach; Boardwalk; Buckle Up and Be Safe; Camp for Fun; Community Bank; Education and Outreach through the Museum; Nightingales; Potluck; Project 2000; Project Safe Space; and Tomberlin. Fundraising continued to be successful with Holiday House, Bargain Barn and Cookbook raising over $300,000. The Membership approved the purchase of the Woman's City Club building. Plans for a $2.5 million capital campaign for the purchase and renovation of the WCC were completed. Phase 1 of this campaign, to raise the purchase and closing costs, was successful, and the building was purchased on May 1, 2001.
The year 2002 marked the beginning of the 80th anniversary of the Junior League of Little Rock. A blood drive in February raised 40 pints of blood for the American Red Cross. We completed our capital campaign, which resulted in $2,000,000 being raised for the purchase and renovation of the Woman's City Club. The Junior League moved into the building in April 2002, and Grand Opening events were held in September. Membership policies were changed to allow Active members to become Sustainers after 7 years of service, regardless of age, and a member can remain in Active Membership for as long as she wishes.
The year 2003 began with the adoption by the membership of a signature community project, GROW - Girls Realizing Opportunities Within, which is a leadership training program for middle school age girls. The parking lot behind the Woman's City Club building bordering Fourth and Cumberland Streets was acquired by JLLR. The 80th anniversay of JLLR was celebrated by the "Pigs on Safari" auction on March 7th. JLLR raised $30,000 and donated the entire net proceeds to the Little Rock Zoo. Bargain Barn celebrated its 25th anniversary in April.
The 2003-2004 league year included the adoption of a new three-year organizational strategic plan as well as a three-year financial strategic plan. The WCC ballroom floor was replaced and decorative improvements were made to the Crystal Room. The Building Endowment Fund was established. A new insurance carrier was retained as was a new website platform host. All fundraisers were more profitable than the previous year with two of the three exceeding budgeted revenue. A league-wide solicitation plan and packet were developed, and a Development Task Force was established and staffed to review existing fundraisers and research new fundraisers. The Research and Development Committee devised a new project review tool and performed reviews of all current projects. ArtReach will retire as scheduled, but GROW will launch June 1, 2004. The JLLR reached out to other organizations by volunteering or contributing to the Little Rock Zoo, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), and Riverfest. The Member-at-Large position and the Solicitations Committee were added to the Membership Council to increase casual and social interaction among members and give members a direct voice in leadership discussions. Two JLLR members, Shannon Aston and Kim Evans, served as workshop presenters at the 2004 Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) Annual Conference.
2004-2005 was a year of managing change and building capacity for the Junior League of Little Rock. GROW (Girls Realizing Opportunities Within) graduated 26 girls from Henderson Health Sciences Magnet, Pulaski Heights Middle School, and Forest Heights Middle School in its first year. JLLR voted to print an additional 30,000 copies Apron Strings. Two new committees were introduced to the League this year, the Audit & Personnel Committee (ad hoc) and the Development and Donor Relations Committee (standing). The new development committee coordinated JLLR's first annual appeal and letter campaign for the Building Endowment Fund. Kroger Cards were introduced as a passive fundraiser. Holiday House moved to October in order to accommodate the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library in November. After a fire and permanent closing at Tomberlin Community Development Center, JLLR modified its welfare to work project with the remaining partner agency, The Hope Center, and the project was renamed Partners for Hope. JLLR successfully moved to a new website platform with Closureware, and introduced a streamlined and spiral bound yearbook. The fourth annual All Arkansas Leadership Retreat was held at the Woman's City Club, and JLLR hosted 85 women from six Junior Leagues across the state.
The 2005-2006 League year was filled with many noteworthy events. First, the League's Board of Directors formulated, adopted and used an annual plan, in addition to a strategic plan, for guiding the League during the year. Using the objectives of the annual plan, the League adopted a new project named Stuff the Bus for implementation in the summer of 2006. In early 2006, the League received the Jimmy Strawn Historical Preservation Award from the Quapaw Quarter Association for our significant contribution to historical preservation with our building. In March 2006, the League officially changed the name of the building to Junior League of Little Rock. After holding a successful Building Gala in March 2006, the League paid off its remaining debt on the building.
During the 2006-07 League year, we celebrated our 85th Anniversary. In honor of our anniversary, we adopted Watson Elementary School and helped improve the learning conditions for every student in the school. JLLR became an official Partner in Education with the Little Rock School District this year as a result of our commitment to helping the children in the public schools through our ongoing projects — GROW and Stuff the Bus (which was successfully implemented this year) — in addition to our 85th Anniversary Project. We also celebrated with a party at the JLLR in March. The final Bargain Barn was held in April, and the members voted to start a new fund raiser in Fall of 2007 -- a brunch following the Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure. The members voted to create a new cookbook based on the research of this year's Cookbook Task Force, and we reprinted Little Rock Cooks. The members also adopted a Focus Statement and accepted a record 92 new Actives at our Annual Meeting. Nightingales expanded to UAMS Family Home, and GROW serviced an additional public middle school. The Provisionals organized Parking Lot Playground for the first time as part of their training, which was enjoyed by children of all ages. Our development efforts were very successful, including the initiation of a solicitation letter sent to our membership asking for donations specifically for our community projects that raised over $13,000. The Executive Director of AJLI, Susan Danish, was our keynote speaker at the 6th Annual All-Arkansas Conference, which had record attendance.
2007-2008 proved to be a year of great results. First Lady of Arkansas Ginger Beebe and Susan Danish were speakers at the Junior Leagues of Arkansas Conference held in August, and our own Sustainers provided an excellent source for trainers. The first Arkansas Presidents' luncheon was held to provide a time of sharing ideas and collaboration. Nightingales began working earlier than ever by providing services in the summer months. A donation in the amount of $11,500 was presented to Camp Aldersgate, our Kota Camp community partner. The membership approved a new community project called Families and Community Together (FACT), which will provide mentoring to the teen mothers at the Parent Center that is part of Centers for Youth and Families. JLLR was nominated for a Volunteers in Public Schools award based on our involvement with the Little Rock School District through our community projects including Stuff the Bus, GROW, and Buckle Up and Be Safe. Holiday House moved to the State House Convention Center, and the financial results reflected its success. There was a League-wide recruitment for recipes and testing as the Cookbook Development process stepped into high gear. The membership approved a revised cookbook requirement for the 2008-2009 year when the new cookbook will be available for sale. Members began to use Good Search, a search engine powered by Yahoo, which allowed for donations to JLLR. A "Retail Therapy" event was held at the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center with a percentage of the sales donated to JLLR. The membership was surveyed through table discussions regarding the future focus for new community projects, a change in Holiday House's premiere event, and details regarding the upcoming new cookbook. In addition to honoring Active members of the Month, we began to honor Sustainer members of the month who were recognized at general meetings. The April general meeting was devoted to training members with topics including the following: organization, time management, communication, presentation skills, and successful meetings.