In 1948, 24 Abilene women formed the Abilene Junior Service League for the purpose of acquainting them more fully with the various aspects of the community and enabling them to give planned effective volunteer service. They used the AJLA (Association of Junior Leagues of America) Handbook as their guide. The members determined that the two greatest needs were help for handicapped children and a central agency to serve as a clearinghouse for volunteer services. Realizing that money was essential for their projects, they cooperated with the Barbershop Quartet Singing group in Abilene and presented a “Harmony Show”. The fund-raiser cleared $1,750.
On September 28, 1953, the organization became incorporated and the name became the Junior Service League of Abilene, Inc. They published their first cookbook, “Party Cook Book” and cleared $2,281.63. In 1956, they became a member of AJLI, known then as the Association of Junior Leagues of America.
In 1960, dues went from $20.00 to $25.00 and changed fiscal year to coincide with the “work year” – June 1 through May 31. In 1961, they voted to send resolutions to the Texas Legislature urging amendments to existing “child molester” statutes. During the 1960’s, the JLA initiated multiple projects including: “Handicap” a sheltered workshop for handicapped persons; Abilene Museum of Fine Arts; Abilene Boys Ranch; Southwestern Geriatrics, Inc.; Arts Appreciation Program; the Preschool Evaluation and Diagnostic Center for Children with Dyslexia and Related Language Disorders; Student Concerts; Children’s Theatre; YWCA Teen Center project; and a project promoting planned parenthood among the indigent.
The JLA engaged in the following projects and activities: promoting drug education at elementary schools; Day Care Center Project; Call For Help Project; Call For Wheels Project; Cinderella Project; Reality Therapy; Musical Communications Project; Locust Center Project; CPR Project; a Repository for the Historical Museum; Joined the State Public Affairs Committee aka SPAC; received anonymous donation of $75,000.00 for purchase and renovation of McDaniel – Ward home (1976); Emergency Shelter Project; collected trading stamps for purchase of folding chairs; taught guitar in public schools; yard working party at headquarters; Creative Playground Project; initiated Juvenile Justice investigation; “experimental program” with night meetings; Established Emergency Group Home of Abilene; Science Fair; Career Fair; Volunteer Clearing House; Sunshine Delivery; taught CPR to all 6th, 8th, 10th grade AISD students and all Health and Biology teachers; collected, sorted and appraised 450 historical items which were then displayed in the Fine Arts Museum; presented voting seminar; performed guitar and sang at nursing homes and the Conference on Aging; ERA Forum; and the “Keeping Up” Project.
The JLA celebrated 25 years of membership in AJLI; began the Education Reduces Abuse of Drugs (ERAD) Project; $5000.00 for the publication “How to Get Your Child Off Marijuana”; Community Drug Education Seminar (Ross Perot spoke); Christmas Carousel chosen as name for Fundraiser (first held in 1981 – raised $36,676.00); Published “The Best Little Cookbook in Texas” (grossed over $150,000.00); Drug Education for Parents; Formed Goodfellows Committee; ALPS/PALS Projects; Paramount Saturday Classics Projects; “Fun Day” at Rose Park (tennis, bridge, and lunch at Rose Park); Calico Corner (resale shop); Sex Education in Public Schools; STEP Program; established Community Advisory Board; Positive Parenting Project; Handicapped House; Participatory Museum; Hendrick League House; Handicap Care; Hospice “Lift Program”; Kids on the Block (handicap awareness puppet shows); Information Library; Children’s Participatory Museum; Commentator published; Funding Information Center; Therapeutic Riding Camp (SPURS); Teen Outreach; Paramount Children’s Performing Art Series; and After School Care.
The JLA initiated the following projects and activities: a Botanical Garden feasibility study; Headquarters Preservation; Teen Court; PEPP (Pregnancy Education Parenting Project); Fire Safety House; Empowerment Workshop (open to the community); Computer Training; Therapeutic Gardening; Legislative Forum; Crime Awareness and Self-Protection for Women Workshop; CPR Course; Computer Training; Child Advocacy Center; Young Audiences; Hope Haven Outdoor Recreation Area; The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL); Operation Lifesaver; “Landmark Entertaining” published; Community Partners “Adopt a Caseworker”; Pre-Teen and Teenage Girls Sports Program Study; Vogel Tenants Association; Texas Scholars; Once Upon a Tour; Teen Sports; Arts in Education; and the Bluebonnet Room.
The JLA celebrated 50 years of membership in AJLI as well as 25 Christmas Carousels. Since 2000, JLA initiated the following projects: Art Carts, Book Bag Buddies, Fort Imagination, Dinosaurs of Texas, Reach Out and Reach, Suds Buds and CHOOSE (Creathing Healthy Ongoing Options Starting Early).
For more information about the history of the Association of Junior League’s International click here.