|JLF History||| Print ||
Organized in 1948 by 30 charter members, the Junior Welfare League of Florence was developed to foster interest in the social, economic, educational, cultural and civic conditions of the Florence community, and to enable the members to serve the community as effective volunteers.
During the first forty years, the Junior Welfare League was involved in a wide variety of community services as volunteers within agencies, but also as initiators of programs when needs were identified. One of the earliest projects was the opening of a day nursery in 1949 following the Junior Welfare League's first successful fund-raiser, a follies. The Day Nursery was operated and funded by the League until 1965, and the property has since become the Mumford G. Fuller Center for preschoolers funded by the Mental Retardation Board. Funds for the annual operation of the Day Nursery were secured by The League's canteen at the McLeod Infirmary.
In 1968, the canteen at McLeod was closed but soon League members were in business again with the opening of a canteen and gift shop at Florence General Hospital in 1972. However, the canteen was only one of the League's many fund-raising projects, with Follies productions in 1951, 1954, 1960, 1968, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1993, and 1998. In addition, the Junior League has published three cookbooks—The Mixing Bowl published in 1950; One Hundred Years of Cooking in 1970; and Stir Crazy in 1986.
A series of Easter Parades, White Elephant Sales and Youth Concerts have provided additional funds and enabled League members to launch several other long-term projects. In 1954, the League assumed full responsibility for a Speech School which members had begun in 1952. This has since become the Pee Dee Speech and Hearing Center, fully operational on its own and serving a large group of patients. Another project which had long-term success was a dental clinic for indigent children that the League sponsored in 1964. League members lobbied for needed support and provided start-up funds. This clinic is now an ongoing service of the Public Health Department.
The Junior League has always supported cultural development and has contributed many hours of volunteer service to the museum, performing arts groups, and the symphony, including the annual Arts Alive Festival. In 1986, the League developed a service for the public schools known as Artist-In–Education. This was totally funded by the League for two years at a cost of $25,000 and also Involved a large number of volunteer hours. In addition to this program, members worked very diligently to insure the passage of a millage increase and helped to cut the School District's costs by providing Substitutes Without Pay.
The oldest continuous League's volunteer service is the Marionettes Committee. Since the early 1950's, our volunteers have produced, created and introduced Florence's kindergarten children to an enlightening performance of this classic form of art.
In 1986 the League developed a drug prevention program for 7th graders. League members offered classes to the public schools for several years, and then the classes were continued by Circle Park.
Our 1988 project was a shelter for abused women and their families. Florence did not have a shelter and the League donated $50,000 towards the purchase of a suitable structure and provided volunteers in a variety of areas of the shelter's operation.
In 1989, the League began a project to restore the J. R. Levy House. The Levy House was built in 1894 and was the home of the first African American physician in Florence. On March 23, 1991, it was moved to its new location on Griffin and Day Streets on the McLeod Regional Medical Center Campus. On September 15, 1982 the League and the community celebrated the Levy House Grand Opening. The house was used for various League and other community boards and committees and for the League 's Headquarters until 1996.
For the first 41 years, the Junior League grew in size and concept. League members had always wanted to be affiliated with the Association of Junior Leagues International. On October 29, 1989, The Junior League of Florence was officially accepted as part of the Association of Junior Leagues International and our name changed to The Junior League of Florence, Inc.
In 1989, Florence County's infant mortality rate was one of the highest in the country. The League received a grant from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to study infant mortality, identify barriers to prenatal care, organize a local task force and programs. The Florence County Infant Mortality Task Force, a 30-minute video—" A Window on our Babies World," and a "Mommas-To-Be and Daddies, Too" Health Fair.
Also in 1989, the League introduced a new fund-raiser, Mardi Gras. With help from the community. Local businesses and League volunteers, it was an immediate success. Since that time, except for In 1993 and 1998 Mardi Gras was our annual fund-raiser until the introduction of The Merry Marketplace. In the fall of 1991, the League established its first continuous fund-raiser, Ditto Resale Shop. This financial endeavor has proved to be extremely profitable for the League. In addition, we provide clothing and other resources for needy individuals and families.
After several years of research and cooperative effort among League members, McLeod Medical Center professionals and community representatives, The Parents' Manual was published in 1993. This publication is easy to use as a guide for parents with children from preschool to high school ages. Topics include education, recreation, social and medical resources. By 1995, over 20,000 copies had been distributed through out the Pee Dee area and are still being distributed.
Kaleidoscope Kids, another marionettes troupe, produced their first shows in 1993 and 1994. Two skits, "Everyone is Special" and "Friendships" are designed to help second graders work through issues of self-concept and social skills development. Also in 1993 –94 we made a new commitment of volunteers and funding to Florence School District One. The Rainbow Riders project developed to give third graders some type of educational experience to enhance their class curriculum.
Since the fall of 1994, the Junior League of Florence has given $12,000 each year to support the Rainbow Riders program. The third grade students of Florence School District One have experienced trips to Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC, the State Museum in Columbia, SC, the aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC and many more trips around Florence and the Pee Dee area.
In 1995, the League began looking for a permanent home. The Russell House located at 1502 W. Palmetto Street proved to be ideal for the League's needs. The League uses this facility for its Headquarters as well as utilizing it for board and committee meetings. The house is available for rental to all League Members and the community.
With the League's sponsorship, Hall Mark Kaleidoscope Project came rolling into town in April of 1997. The huge purple tent housed various hands on art projects which provided area children with weeks of fun, fellowship and art. Other League projects taking place included Kaleidoscope Kids, Marionettes, and Rainbow Riders All of which helped make the school year a little brighter for Florence students.
During the year of 1997-1998 the Junior League of Florence celebrated 50 years of service to the Florence community. The Marionettes troupe the Leagues oldest volunteer service, celebrated its 40th year of performing for area kindergarten students and the League presented its 10th Follies Production.
The League continued to support its current projects in 1998-1999: Kaleidoscope Kids, Marionettes, Rainbow Riders, and The Parents Manual. Due to the success of the fund-raiser Mardi Gras an additional $15,000 was given to The House of Hope, a homeless shelter for women and children of the Pee Dee. The League also initiated two new projects, Attire to Inspire and Leaders In Action. Attire To Inspire allows women from the House of Hope and the Pee Dee Coalition to obtain business attire at no cost from the Ditto Resale Shop to be used for interviews and court appearances. Leaders In Action recognizes area high school women who have shown outstanding community concern and involvement.
As we embarked on a new millennium the 1999-2000 year saw many changes to our League. The League held its inaugural Merry Marketplace, A Holiday Shopping Extravaganza. This project raised over $30,000 for our organization's projects and programs. These funds will help support the two new projects adopted by the League to better service the Pee Dee area: The House of Hope Lifeskills Program and ScienceSouth. The Lifeskills Room services the homeless women and children of our community and will begin in the fall of 2000. The League also committed $100,000 over the next 5 years toward the development of an interactive learning center called ScienceSouth.
During the 2001-2002 year, we celebrated the centennial year of The Association of Junior Leagues' International with a visit from the AJLI president, Deborah Brittain. Merry Marketplace, along with the development campaign, continued as the primary fund-raiser for the League. The League made its second contribution of $20,000 to ScienceSouth. The Lifeskills program continued to serve residents of the House of Hope and Attire to Inspire collected professional clothing for people in need. The Leaders In Action award scholarship s of $500 per recipient were presented to seven local high school women. A League website was created and the membership donated $5,000 to the Pee Dee Coalition for the Talk about Touching program.
In 2002-2003 Merry Marketplace, along with the development campaign continued to be a success as our primary fund-raiser. ScienceSouth received its third installment of $20,000. House of Hope residents continued to be provided with the LifeSkills program along with a $2,000 budgeted donation and the Attire to Inspire program partnered with Carolina Wings and Rib House to provide women in the community with professional clothing at no cost. Seven local high school students received the Leaders In Action Awards with a $500 scholarship. Stir Crazy cookbook was reprinted due to popular demand. The International Junior League logo was adopted, the Community Grant Awards Program was developed and $6,500 was presented to organizations in the community.
The 2003-2004 year marked the fifth anniversary for Merry Marketplace. In celebration, the League innovated the three-day shopping event by adding a Shop Night, which was open to the public. About five thousand people joined us for Merry Marketplace and the funds raised will help us continue to make our community a better place. "Women Building a Better Community" defined a multi-media public service and image campaign launched by the JLF on television, radio and newspaper. The Russell House got a facelift too with the addition of a gravel parking lot and a fresh coat of paint. Speaking of paint, refreshing rooms at the Pee Dee Coalition Shelter, giving Christmas to kids through Pee Dee Mental Health, creating comfort kits for the American Red Cross and more defined our brand new committee "Done In a Day." A Sustainer Roundtable was formed and the membership voted to expand the Lifeskills program by opening it up to other agencies. In addition, a Weekend Readers program for children was passed and will begin in the fall at the brand new Florence County Library. For future and current projects, a Strategic Planning Process was begun. The second year of Community Grants was gifted, Leadership In Action Awards scholarships continued and DITTO resale shop thrived. As this high gear year rolled to a close, ScienceSouth On Wheels rolled up, cementing the first phase for the largest funded project in league history.