Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Junior League of Evanston-North Shore celebrates centennial year, aims to continue serving community

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Garces
The Junior League of Evanston-North Shore is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Since she was young, Valerie Rowlands (Medill M.S. ’21) has had a “heart for volunteering.”

She began attending Junior League meetings in high school. Now, Rowlands is preparing to become the president of the Junior League of Evanston-North Shore in its centennial year.

The Junior League movement started in New York City in 1901 with a focus on child nutrition, health and literacy. The Evanston chapter was founded in 1924. During the Great Depression, it ran nutrition centers and milk distribution stations. The organization added “North Shore” to its name in 1990, when it moved its headquarters to Winnetka.

Rowlands said every project JLE-NS takes on revolves around the values of family, community and service.

“Our goal is to get involved in projects that immediately impact our communities (and) give them support,” she said.

Thrift House, founded in 1940, is JLE-NS’s longest running project. Located in Evanston at 920 Chicago Ave., the store sells used, affordable clothing. Any clothing that isn’t sold is donated to local nonprofit Connections for the Homeless, and the revenue from Thrift House is a large source of funding for other community projects.

One project that is particularly special to Rowlands is the JLE-NS collaboration with WINGS, an Illinois-based organization that provides housing and resources for domestic abuse survivors.

The fundraiser for WINGS was JLE-NS’s new members’ project this year, and the money raised was used to purchase supplies for 100 women in honor of JLE-NS’s 100th anniversary.

Rowlands said part of why she has continued to be an active member of JLE-NS is because of the people she’s surrounded by. Rebecca Garces, the executive director of the Thrift House board of directors, echoed this sentiment.

“This organization not only allows me to be impactful in the community, but also meet women all up and down the North Shore that I would never have had the opportunity to meet,” Garces said.

Jennifer Luczkowiak (Weinberg ’04), a 12-year JLE-NS member and the current scholarships and grants chair, said the Junior League has always been a “constant” while her career and family life have changed over time.

Garces said JLE-NS has two types of members: active members — who make up the organization’s various committees — and sustainer members — who pay dues, provide advice and support projects, but do not actively participate. According to Garces, there are currently about 40 active members out of the organization’s more than 200 members.

To celebrate the organization’s century of projects, JLE-NS is hosting a Tea & Cookies event at the Thrift House on May 11. Members will dress up in outfits representative of each decade since JLE-NS’s founding, Rowlands said. There will also be a Centennial Anniversary Gala on June 1. Tickets for the event are available until May 17.

Luczkowiak said it is impossible to predict how JLE-NS will change in the next 100 years, but she hopes it will continue helping communities in and beyond the North Shore.

“I would love (the Junior League) to continue to utilize the resources that it has,” she said. “The resources (should) continue to be utilized for the greater community, meaning people within our community and also empowering communities outside of ours.”

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