[ back ]
Neighbors head up Junior League gala
Neighbors head up Junior League gala
By BARBARA CHRISTIAN
The Junior League of Cleveland is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. At the heart of the action are two Bainbridge women who, by chance, live in the Tanglewood neighborhood.
Linda Campbell and Robyn Forney did not know the other had been asked to lead the centennial planning, a process that began two years ago.
“I had seen Linda’s name on things before and knew who she was,” Mrs. Forney said.
The same was echoed by Mrs. Campbell, who says she cannot imagine working with anyone else on what is a major observation for the organization. “It was a happy accident.”
The celebration will culminate Sept. 8 in the State Theater at PlayhouseSquare, where an evening featuring the Junior League’s past, present and future will unfold. It also will serve to put an exclamation mark to 100 years of community building in which the membership is committed.
Among the highlights of Mrs. Forney’s and Mrs. Campbell’s planning and the work of their committees was a 100th-year project called WhereRU? in February at Cleveland State University (CSU) in collaboration with the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio. The program, directed to young women, featured a combination of entertainment and empowering events for those who will soon “age out” of Cleveland’s foster care system.
“Aging out is a pressing issue,” Mrs. Forney said. Picking up on that was Mrs. Campbell, who explained that, for many, it is automatic homelessness and joblessness.
The program provided these youth with a head start on what’s beyond high school graduation. The lucky ones have college in their future, “but what do they do when they come home for the holidays, and there is no home?” Mrs. Campbell asks.
Junior League members identified and enlisted other organizations and job counselors, who spent the WhereRU? days reaching out to the young women. Since February, the project has moved around the Cleveland area to present the material to other locations.
The audiences, Mrs. Campbell said, have been enthusiastic because it is a fun day directed toward a serious subject. WhereRU? includes entertainment, hands-on activities and information provided by people and professions from every walk of life. The goal is to guide the young women on their next step in life.
The CSU event gave as much to Junior League members as it did to the young women. “I don’t know when I have been more moved,” Mrs. Forney said. “People were in tears, but also very buoyed by being part of the group. It was just so dynamic. ... I still get goose bumps.”
Because the WhereRU? event is less than six months old, “there are no success stories to announce just yet, but we know there will be,” Mrs. Campbell said.
WhereRU? is just one of dozens of ways the Junior League is there to help Greater Cleveland communities when they are needed and by working with other organizations, charities and causes, which include a scholarship program for non-traditional students and adult women going into fields such as trucking or construction work. The scholarships can help in ways that include everything from the purchasing books to funding child care.
Junior League of Cleveland also stages a youth leadership day and career seminars. It helps sponsor an assortment of other academic assistance, fun learning activities, family and child support projects and a camping experience, plus brings health and fitness opportunities and information to children and young people. The list goes on.
Unlike other women’s groups, which focus on a single good work, charity or cause, the Junior League has many and is in constant flux as the need arises.
“That is what makes us so different than any other organization,” Mrs. Campbell said. “This is the type of thing that, instead of one cause, Junior League gets involved in a number of issues, and that is the challenge.”
For that reason, Mrs. Forney and Mrs. Campbell agree that the Junior League is a good place to go for women who need to spread their wings. They mention themselves as examples.
Mrs. Campbell had been president of the Kenston PTO and was a member of the Chagrin Valley Welcome Wagon and Chagrin Valley Jaycee Wives when she decided it was time to branch out. She joined the Junior League in 1988.
Mrs. Forney, who joined in 2001, had been involved with local school volunteering, but wanted to do something beyond her neighborhood.
While Mrs. Forney is an active member, Mrs. Campbell as a sustaining member was “called out of retirement” to work on the 100th year celebration with Mrs. Forney.
Membership is open to any woman in the Cleveland area, with members from Lake County to Lorain County at different stages of life and different ethnicities. “The talent and experiences are second to none,” Mrs. Campbell said.
Tickets and information for the Sept. 8 gala are available by calling the Junior League office at 216-231-6300 or visiting www.jlcleveland.org.
The evening, with an expected 400 guests, will occupy nearly every inch of the theater. There will be a procession honoring Cleveland’s 21 past Junior League presidents, who are coming from around the country. The event will include dinner, a reception, a silent auction and live music. Playhouse Square and Key Bank are main sponsors.
[ back ]