Founded in 1925 by 12 forward-thinking women, the Junior League of Houston has built an exemplary record of charitable achievement. The League’s reputation has been forged by its steadfast focus on service to and financial support of the community through trained volunteers.
Contributions of Note
- 1942 Texas Children’s Hospital Memorial Fund established
- 1967 Junior League Outpatient Clinic first opened
- 1976 Old Market Square Park revival through 50th Anniversary Gift
- 1986 Houston Child Guidance Center Library funded through the 60th Anniversary Gift
- 2000 SuperKids Pediatric Mobile Clinic
- 2006 Neighborhood Centers Inc., Gulfton Project
- 2009 Kandy Stripe Academy – Playscape Build
- 2015 SuperKids Community Health Worker
Establishment of a well-baby clinic was adopted as the League’s first project when young League members, many of them mothers, recognized the lack of services available for disadvantaged children. Subsequently, the League has developed relationships with major medical resources, including:
- Baylor College of Medicine
- Ben Taub Hospital
- Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center
- Texas Children’s Hospital
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
The prospect of adopting its first project required the League to generate a source of income for its support. Energetic League members formed a “Luncheon Club” that was the genesis of today’s Tea Room. Then, as now, League members’ and Tea Room patron members’ dues were dedicated to the support of the League’s Community Program. Musicals, style shows, and – decades later – musical therapy are outgrowths of the creative contributions to the community.
Having addressed children’s basic health needs in prior years, the League sought to enrich their lives by introducing a cultural element. Children’s Theater, which entertained thousands of children over six decades, ultimately spawned an educational puppetry troupe as well as play production and design workshops. The inclusion of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was a natural step in the succession of expanded League projects. By the following decade, Junior League docents began leading groups of public school children through the museum – a tradition that continued for many years through the storytime docent program.
Formation of the Museum of Natural History (now the Houston Museum of Natural Science) inspired the League to expand its community program again. From this early association with the natural world sprang later liaisons with environmental concerns such as Buffalo Bayou Coalition and the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.
A number of fundraisers were held during the first 20 years of the League’s history, but none was to be more successful than the Charity Ball. The first ball, held in 1949, netted $17,700; on its 50th anniversary the ball netted $750,000, all of which was returned to the community.
1950s and 1960s
In 1954, the Children’s Health Clinic – renamed “Junior League Outpatient Clinic” – was moved to its permanent location at Texas Children’s Hospital. In 1994, the hospital recognized the Junior League for countless hours of service and $1 million in contributions. In one its first community collaborations, the Junior League joined with the Houston Public Library to initiate a comprehensive summer reading program. Children who met their reading goal were rewarded by seeing a League-sponsored play. Later commitments to literacy education included Volunteers in Public Schools, Houston Read Commission and Teach for America.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science acquired a Diplodocus dinosaur brain in 1962 with support from the League. It was unveiled by the museum in 1975 and became Houston’s first dinosaur citizen.
1970s and 1980s
The heightened reality of troubled teens drew the League into a powerful relationship with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, where League volunteers offered lifestyle counseling to probationers. Additionally, League volunteers also provided emotional and practical guidance to at-risk adolescents at Baylor Teen Health Clinic and Covenant House.
Assisting abandoned and abused children was a natural calling for the League to fulfill through a partnership with Child Advocates, Inc. Similar projects included Children’s Assessment Center, Casa de Esperanza de los Niños and DePelchin Children’s Center.
The life-saving techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) moved the League beyond conventional volunteer activities into broad-based community interaction. At one point, CPR volunteers were participating in four annual citywide CPR training events at the Astrodome. Today, the League continues to offer one of the few free CPR courses offered in the city.
In 1975, for the League’s bicentennial anniversary gift, the League gave $60,000 to help revive Market Square Park. This park is Houston’s original town center and where the Allen brothers first landed when they founded the city in 1836. The area originally housed three City Hall buildings prior to becoming a parking lot in the 1960s. The League campaigned to turn this space back into a beautiful park so all residents could enjoy it. The concrete parking lot was removed, park was terraced, and live oak and crepe myrtle trees were installed.
For the League’s 60th anniversary in 1985, the League generously gave $100,000 to the Houston Child Guidance Center to build a library at its new Day Treatment Center. The Houston Child Guidance Center was founded in 1929 by Ima Hogg focusing on children’s mental health issues and treatment. The Library funded by the League would serve between 800 and 1,000 people per year through mental health resources and just a general place to read, study and reflect.
Building hope by building homes through Habitat for Humanity reinforced the League’s commitment to the city’s indigent. The League’s initiative in adopting and sustaining this project earned it a Silver Hammer Award in 1998 from the Local Habitat Chapter.
Abused women, rape victims and homeless mothers and children were counseled by trained volunteers at Houston Area Women’s Center, initiating a renewed commitment to the plight of unprotected women and their families.
In 1999, a $10,000,000 campaign, Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future, was kicked off to raise funds for the newly created Community Endowment. Within just a twelve-month period, the League had received gifts and pledges totaling $2,370,284. The purpose of the Community Endowment is to sustain, expand and initiate League-designated community programs in perpetuity.
In observance of its traditional commitment to children and in celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Junior League gifted the city of Houston with the well-baby health facility of the future: the Superkids Pediatric Mobile Clinic. Collaborative partners in this effort include Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, City of Houston, Houston Independent School District and Harris County Hospital District. The League committed $1 million, over a three-year period, to underwrite the mobile clinic and its personnel. The League continues its support of the SuperKids clinic by providing financial support and trained volunteers.
In 2001, the League began its work at Houston’s Ronald McDonald House. League volunteers provide a needed respite for families residing at RMH by bringing them together for a League-prepared dinner and fun activities like Bingo and crafts. This also offers an opportunity to the families to share their experiences and support one another. The break from the routine gives the children, both patients and their non-patient siblings, an opportunity to receive equal attention and to take their minds off the patients’ illnesses.
In 2002, the League’s first children’s book, Sweet Dreams Douglas, was printed with over 20,000 copies. The release in September 2002 was celebrated with a children’s party. By May 31, 2003, Douglas sales exceeded 8,000 copies. Later that year, Sweet Dreams Douglas won the “Best Children’s Book” award presented by Writer’s Digest.
The League formed the Junior League Collaborative to participate in Habitat for Humanity’s SuperBUILD XXXVIII – helping build one of 38 homes in 38 days for the 38th Super Bowl held in Houston in February 2004. Participants in the Junior League Collaborative were AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc., the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital , the Hobby Family Foundation, The Payne Foundation and Vaughn Construction. The home was built for a family living with HIV/AIDS. Volunteers from each of the collaborative partners participated in the build. The Payne Foundation donated $15,000 and Vaughn Construction donated $5,000 to the League to be used for the SuperBUILD.
In 2005, the Community Initiatives Committee was charged with identifying a neighborhood upon which the League could focus its attention through the identification of new initiatives and the expansion of current outreach efforts. The committee concluded that the Gulfton area, where the League already has a presence through various programs, would be an ideal match for this new endeavor. An immediate commitment to improving literacy in this community was made through a partnership with Neighborhood Centers, Inc., in whose new multi-service center the League made a $50,000 commitment to underwrite a library in a children’s charter school.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the Junior League of Houston responded by establishing the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund by donating an initial $10,000. The Sustaining Club of the Junior League of Houston donated an additional $5,000 in support of the organization’s efforts to immediately and tangibly support the evacuees arriving in Houston and the community agencies that assumed additional responsibilities to our city’s newest residents.
In 2009, the League established a new project at Chinquapin Preparatory School. This project was modeled after the Pen Pals program and allows volunteers to serve as mentors to seventh and eighth grade girls at Chinquapin Preparatory School through written correspondence and books clubs.
In 2015, the League celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special gift to the SuperKids Pediatric Mobile Clinic Program. During this time, the League initiated funds to support a certified Community Health Worker to serve as a liaison and cultural mediator for the families served by the SuperKids program. This healthcare professional provides patient education, patient navigation and social support, and assistance in completing applications for health insurance and other available resources.