Resolve to be Involved

Junior League
The Junior League of Asheville, Inc. (JLA) is planning its inaugural Volunteer Expo, which will be held at the Crowne Plaza Expo Center on Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 from 10 am to 4 pm. Modeled after a job fair, this FREE event will feature more than 50 local nonprofits who are looking to fill ongoing and future volunteer needs. Nonprofits in almost every area of community concern will be present at the event: health, poverty, legal aid, environmental stewardship, women’s issues, arts, civic leadership, technology, education, and animal welfare.

“We were unsurprised to read that Asheville was ranked 16th out of 75 mid-size cities for its rate of volunteering in 2015.* We live in a time where people are looking around and saying ‘How can I contribute? How can I help?’ We want the Expo to be a starting point for community members to explore volunteer opportunities and examine community needs,” said Crystal Capps, chair of the committee organizing the Volunteer Expo.

Continuing their mission of training volunteers, the Junior League of Asheville will host four speaking panels at the Volunteer Expo centered around the theme, “How do you serve?” Panelists will address direct, government, and board service, as well as financial management of nonprofits.

From its inception, the Junior League of Asheville has trained women for leadership roles and equipped them with the skills necessary for effective volunteer service in their communities. Members are tasked with serving on a committee and are encouraged to chair a committee or serve on the League’s Board of Directors during their time as an active member in the League. The experiential training members receive through League related service and leadership is supplemented by numerous community service projects for local nonprofit organizations, and through a variety of workshops and retreats that train members on topics such as fundraising, diversity and inclusion, marketing, and nonprofit governance. Additionally, the Junior League of Asheville hosts many awareness initiatives around their central community focus: women and children in poverty.

Over the past nine decades, the JLA has taken on everything from the Angels Watch respite program to helping found the WNC Nature Center. Today, the Junior League of Asheville continues its mission of improving our community through the effective action of trained volunteers, by hosting service days like the Volunteer-a-Thon, as well as volunteering for various organizations on a monthly basis. The League has also stepped up its poverty awareness initiatives and just recently held its first Poverty Awareness and Education Week.

“I joined JLA with the intention of networking and having the opportunity to volunteer in my community. What I found upon entering the organization was a place where I could develop a skill set I wouldn’t normally find in my personal or professional life. Our volunteer opportunities are designed to do more than make me feel good for an hour or two. I’ve seen first hand how systemic poverty impacts our community and that will only change when people start caring enough to tackle the big questions,” said Jessica Coffield, VP of Personnel for the Junior League of Asheville.

The first Junior League chapter was formed in 1901 by 19 year old Mary Harriman, daughter of railroad tycoon E.H. Harriman. While a student at Barnard College, Harriman became involved with the Settlement movement in New York City, where college students and local activists were encouraged to live among newly settled immigrants in some of the poorest areas of the city. Settlement workers taught English, operated a daycare, ran a public kitchen, and helped ease the transition of immigrants into their new lives in America. Harriman saw a need for an organization of women – of trained volunteers – who could work together to improve the lives of their community’s most disadvantaged members. In addition to volunteering themselves, Harriman and her friends organized lectures and workshops on how to address community needs for impoverished neighborhoods. The concept of trained volunteers took off and by 1921, thirty additional League chapters had formed across the United States.

In 1927, a group of young women led by Anna Catherine Bryant founded the Junior League of Asheville. The JLA’s first acts of service included working as clerical staff for local hospitals and developing a motor corps for people needing transportation to and from doctor appointments. After witnessing a sharp increase in Buncombe County children abandoned during the Great Depression, the JLA took on it’s first major project in 1931, the Baby Home. League members organized the effort by fundraising for the building, medical staff, and needs of children living in the facility. Members were also tasked with the day to day operations: childcare, record keeping, interviewing families and developing educational programs. By the end of 1936, the JLA had contributed over $27,000 and cared for 160 babies and toddlers.

If you have found yourself wanting to have a greater impact in your community but are unsure of where to start, join the JLA at the Volunteer Expo on February 3. All the nonprofits represented at the Expo will have volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, including children.

To learn more about the Junior League of Asheville, please visit their website at:

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Written by Crystal Capps