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The power of women: Junior League of Birmingham celebrates 100 years of community service

The Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), a nonprofit service organization formed in 1922, has survived the Great Depression, World War II, periods of social unrest and tremendous cultural changes.

All the while, the JLB has continued to recruit and train thousands of volunteers who have worked to improve quality of life in the Birmingham area, especially for women and children.

JLB works with many partners to serve the community in four impact areas: health and wellness, education and culture, safety and crisis intervention, and financial stability and economic security.

“Even organizations that utilize our services may not be fully aware of our outreach effort,” JLB President Amy Jackson said.

On May 10, the JLB will celebrate its 100th birthday. The organization is in the middle of an extended centennial celebration that began in May 2021, with the JLB’s centennial gift to One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center.

One Place, which provides services to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, recently held the grand opening of its building on Birmingham’s Southside. The renovated structure provides substantially more space for coordinated services, all under one roof. JLB pledged $1.25 million toward the new, permanent home for One Place. The Alabama Power Foundation is a contributor to the project.

One Place Executive Director Allison Dearing described the organization’s activities this way: “A multidisciplinary team of providers offers law enforcement and prosecution services, domestic violence forensic nurse exams, legal assistance and advocacy under one roof to support victims and survivors.”

She said the One Place team seeks to provide victims “a pathway to hope and healing.”

Dearing expressed gratitude to JLB, in part because the One Place fundraising campaign helped create greater awareness of the problems the facility seeks to combat.

“Not only did the JLB raise funds for a building, but the organization also made possible countless opportunities to openly address the impact of domestic and sexual violence on individuals from every ZIP code across the greater Birmingham region,” Dearing said.

Junior League of Birmingham members gave their time to provide and plant new landscaping at the new home for One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center. (contributed)

The JLB centennial celebration will climax with a centennial gala in December. The ongoing celebration features a series of events and activities – including the 100 Acts of Service initiative – to improve the community and further raise awareness of JLB and its goals.

“It is a testament to the guiding principles of the Junior League of Birmingham and the women who have served it that it has thrived and grown for a century,” Jackson said.

Membership has grown from about 200 members in 1922 to nearly 2,300 members today. JLB is consistently one of the five largest Junior League organizations in the world.

“The JLB is a group of passionate women who desire to have an impact in our community,” said Martina Winston, who will be the group’s 2022-23 president beginning in June.

The 100 Acts of Service campaign “has allowed members the opportunity to get their hands dirty in a wide range of done-in-a-day type outreach,” JLB Centennial Marketing Chair Honora Gathings said.

The 100 Acts of Service has included planting community gardens, handing out water at runs, serving food at homeless shelters, donating athletic equipment and educational supplies at Inglenook Elementary and calling a game of bingo at an older adults center.

“We wanted to honor the women before us and to celebrate this 100th year by challenging ourselves to make an even bigger difference in the community,” Gathings said.

In April, many JLB community partners gathered for its annual Community Circle Breakfast and to award academic scholarships to “the next generation of female leaders,” Gathings said.

In the fall, the organization will again host the Shop Save and Share program, in which people can help fund JLB projects by purchasing discount cards for local shopping.

Market Noel will return for the Christmas holidays, leading up to the centennial gala.

JLB has also been involved in other initiatives recently, Jackson said.

The JLB Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee “has continued to open more doors for our members to voluntarily engage in more training,” Jackson said.

The organization’s diaper bank has expanded to include period products.

JLB is heavily involved in efforts in Alabama to help fight human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an important issue in Birmingham because the city is at the crossroads of major trafficking routes, such as Interstate Highways 20 and 65.

“That makes us a hub,” said Abby Grace Worrell, chair of JLB’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee.

In January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, JLB hosted two virtual presentations: “Human Trafficking 101” and “The Raw Truth: Rescue & Recovery of Trafficked Children.”

“Human trafficking is largely successful because of community apathy and denial of its existence,” Worrell said. “It’s a very common misconception that this generally doesn’t happen in Birmingham. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening right under our noses – and on an enormous scale.”

The Junior League of Birmingham is committed to bringing awareness to this issue in every way possible, Jackson said.

Dearing said the new facility for One Place, located on Sixth Avenue South, is a game-changer for the agency.

“I feel so fortunate to work in a beautiful, serene, peaceful space intentionally designed to meet the confidential needs of survivors,” Dearing said.

Jackson said during her tenure as JLB president, community service has been her “No. 1 priority.”

Before the pandemic, the organization averaged about 55,000 volunteer hours of direct community service each year, she said.

In 2020-21, despite COVID-19, JLB members volunteered more than 45,000 hours, she said.

“Members found the time and energy to serve, even as their own lives were disrupted,” Jackson said.

“My goal is that we reach or exceed 55,000 hours again,” she said.

The many hours of service logged by JLB members shows the power of women coming together for a common mission.

“The power of women is reflected not only by the growth of this organization, but by the scope of the initiatives which we undertake,” Jackson said.

“Each one of us has the potential to lead and affect change,” Gathings said. “The possibilities are limitless when we come together.”

“We are a group of movers and shakers who embraces change and leverages our talents to support the needs of our community,” Winston said. “Our members are passionate and dedicated about serving our community, often balancing full-time careers, families and other community commitments.”

In return, members receive excellent training, Gathings said.

The nonprofit gives its volunteers “the tools and desire to better serve our community,” she said.

“Our focus around ‘developing the potential of women’ gets better every day,” Winston said. “No matter the training opportunities – personal or professional – we are creating learning moments to help develop our volunteers. Being able to motivate and inspire our volunteers to be engaged and take action in the work will be a big focus for me personally.”

As part of the Junior League of Birmingham’s 100 Acts of Service to celebrate its centennial year, members hosted a water station at the MLK Day 5K Drum Run/Walk downtown in January. (contributed)

Members are proud to celebrate JLB’s centennial. “The importance of the league’s longevity cannot be understated,” Jackson said.

But Gathings said JLB – even as it commemorates 100 years of community service – is focused on the future.

“Our centennial isn’t just about where we’ve been,” she said. “It’s about where we are and where we are going as a service organization.”

Winston said she is excited about helping to commemorate the organization’s centennial after she becomes president.

“However, I’m even more excited about the opportunity to set the stage for the next 100 years,” she said.

“We may be turning 100, but we have no plans on slowing down,” Gathings said. “Our dreams and goals are only getting bigger. It all comes down to the heart of what we do: engage, inspire and lead.”

“I want to make sure that we stay focused on the future,” Winston added. “Our community is ever-changing, and I want to make sure the Junior League of Birmingham has a voice in helping to impact change in our community.

“And I can’t forget that while we are impacting our community for the good, we are going to have some fun along the way,” she said.

For more information about JLB and the organization’s centennial celebration, call 205-879-9861 or go to

This story originally appeared in Iron City Ink.