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Junior Leagues in LR, NLR train women as volunteers. (Nonprofit Organizations).

GROWING UP IN NORTH Little Rock, Kelly Brown didn't consider herself poor, but she certainly wasn't wealthy.

"All I had to offer was hard work," she said in a recent interview.

Today, as president of the Junior League of North Little Rock, Brown uses her talent, connections and pure hard work to reach the less fortunate children in her hometown.

Brown and the league's members plan a number of programs to teach children safety, promote health among new moms and mothers-to-be and provide Christmas gifts for less fortunate children.

Similarly, the Junior League of Little Rock implements programs and fundraisers that benefit the community economically and socially, said the organization's president, Anne Goodman Massey.

The two leagues also share a similar vision for its membership: to train women to be effective leaders and volunteers in every aspect of their lives.

The Junior League isn't the social club of the 1950s and '60s, the presidents emphasize.

The Junior League of Little Rock, with more than 300 active members and 65 "provisionals" in training, volunteered about 6,500 direct and indirect hours in fiscal 2001, according to Massey.

The smaller Junior League of North Little Rock, with 145 active members and 15 provisionals, nonetheless logged 15,000 volunteer hours.

Since the first Junior League was founded in 1901 in New York City by 18-year-old Mary Harriman, Junior League groups have examined their communities for ways to make a difference. While league members often volunteer with existing organizations, the league prefers to see a need, establish a project to meet that need, fund it until it becomes self-supporting and turn it loose to the city in which the league operates. Two notable successes for the Little Rock Junior League have been the Arkansas Arts Center, founded in 1957 as A Community of Arts and Sciences, and Riverfest, which began as the Summer Arts Festival in 1977.

The 80-year-old Junior League of Little Rock also created Potluck in 1989 to provide food for homeless shelters using prepared and unused food donated by local restaurants. It, too, is now a stand-alone program, Potluck Inc.

"That's our goal, to turn our projects over to the community. Sometimes they fail, and sometimes they succeed like Potluck," she said.

Currently, the leagues partner with several agencies and support them financially, but there is a big push to create something of their own to operate continuously. The league is expected to have a more definite project topic by May 2003.

North of the river, the league -- founded in 1948 -- donates thousands of hours to projects like Heaven's Loft, an incentive program that encourages low-income expectant mothers and parents of young children to receive prenatal care, well-baby care, immunizations and education.

"It's things that we take for granted; things we of above low income can provide [for our children]," Kelly Brown said.

Safety Town is a program held every year at Pike 'View Elementary School in North Little Rock. During the weeklong session, children are taught traffic and fire safety rules in a miniature town setting.

The Junior League of North Little Rock also co-sponsors the Angel Tree during the Christmas season. This program matches donated Christmas gifts with needy families in the area. It has become one of the league's favorite activities, Brown said.

In Little Rock, the league's "Pigs on Safari" fund-raiser has become one of its most visible. Eighty -- to mark the league's 80th anniversary -- fiberglass pigs were available for "adoption" by local businesses, and many of them have sprung up around town. The league is creating a Pig Trail map detailing the location of all decorated pigs.

As with many nonprofit organizations, the Junior Leagues in central Arkansas actively seek donations for community programs they implement. According to 990 forms filed with the IRS, the Junior League of Little Rock received nearly $941,000 in fiscal 2001 from contributions, $107,000 from investments, nearly $90,000 from special events and $75,000 from other sources, bringing the group's total revenue to $1.213 million. The Little Rock league returns 50-60 percent of money raised to the community. The league has assets of nearly $2.54 million.

"Our goal, ultimately, is to put every penny we earn at our fund-raisers into the community," Massey said.

Once housed in Trapnall Hail, the Junior League of Little Rock last year paid $700,000 for the Woman's City Club and neighboring parking lot at Fourth and Scott streets. The league hopes to create an endowment to pay for the purchase and renovation of the almost 100-year-old building, which also can be rented for parties and conferences.

In North Little Rock, the league received no contributions in 1999-2000, the most recent year for which a 990 was available. The league did receive $7,500 from investments, $54,000 from special events and $39,300 from other sources for a total revenue of just under $101,100 with assets of $166,944.

The North Little Rock league is headquartered in the old Manees house at 216 W. Fourth St., which also has been restored.

The 2001-2002 fiscal year turned out to be rough for the North Little Rock Junior League. Though she wouldn't give specifics, Brown said that year was the first in at least nine years that the league dipped into its reserve money to cover operating costs.

The Junior League of North Little Rock has moved away from the traditional closed-membership requirements that prohibited entry into the league without a "sponsor" (a current member) and a set informational training period.

In Little Rock, enrollment remains closed, Massey said. But the league does offer a "sponsor pool" that allows women who don't know anyone in the league to pair up with a participating sponsor and gain entry.

Both leagues agree that their No. 1 priority is to better the community through programs they offer and empower their members to be strong leaders in every area of their lives.
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Title Annotation:Little Rock, North Little Rock
Comment:Junior Leagues in LR, NLR train women as volunteers. (Nonprofit Organizations).(Little Rock, North Little Rock)
Author:Smith, Alicia H.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Sep 30, 2002
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