Monday, February 27, 2023 | Paper City
A Closer Look at Everything This Women’s Service Society Does
When the Junior League of Houston celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Charity Ball, there was much to applaud beyond the $820,000 raised at the back-to-back gala evenings that took place at the JLH home a stone’s throw from River Oaks. There was the on-going community leadership and volunteerism that has been the hallmark of the organization since its founding in 1925.
In advance of the gala, themed “A Diamond Celebration,” PaperCity sat down with Junior League of Houston president Anne Sears to talk about the evolution of what began as something of a society lady’s service organization into a full-blown community service and leadership training organization with a membership that strives to reflect the Houston community.
“Going back a few decades, you saw a lot of women who were stay-at-home moms who had a lot of of daytime availability when the children were at school. Fast forward to where we are now and we have more than 90 percent of our membership that works outside of the home,” Sears says. “We’ve done a lot to adopt to the needs of the modern woman.”
The Junior League Brings Impactful leadership
Since the league’s founding, members have served as non-voting representatives on the board of directors or as committee members with various nonprofit organizations through the league’s Outside Board Representative program, providing stepping stones to impactful leadership.
In fact, the value of the leadership training and quality of league members is evidenced by the positions that Junior League of Houston alumni hold in the nonprofit community. A past JLH president Ann Stern presides as president and CEO of Houston Endowment. Former JLH president Cynthia Adkins serves as executive director of the TIRR Foundation. Alumnus Ronnie Hagerty serves as assistant vice president of United Way of Houston, Liz Love is the CEO of the Jacob & Terese Hershey Foundation. Ana Schick is the executive director of Small Steps Nurturing Center. And Mary Beth Staine serves as executive director of Bo’s Place.
Emphasis on Diversity
The face of Junior League of Houston has evolved in recent years to become representative of the broader Houston community through committed DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) efforts that began with a board level study on membership and elevation of the DEI director to a board position. In addition to creating a DEI committee, all provisionals and transfers are required to complete DEI training.
“A DEI committee member sits on every council and sub-council, looking at ways to reach out to demographics that have not always been attracted to the league,” Sears says. The goal is “to move towards a membership that represents the community that we serve.”
Junior League’s Charity Ball
The importance of the annual gala cannot be understated. “Charity Ball is the largest source of funding for our community programs,” Sears says. “We literally could not do what we do, we could not have the impact in the community without Charity Ball.
“One of the things that we really love about the event is the entertainment by our members. We’ve had that all through the 75 years of the charity ball — an all-members entertainment variety show featuring singing, dancing, sometimes a musical accompaniment. That’s the one thing that really makes our gala unique among all the galas that are taking place around town. It’s something that we are really proud of.”
The diamond theme of the fundraiser was also celebrated via a VIP Diamond Vault Bar, sponsored by Ciel Restaurant & Lounge, and a professional jewelry cleaning station hosted by Valobra Master Jewelers.
So popular is the event and due to the limited space in the Junior League of Houston home, the soirée was held Thursday through Saturday evenings with a “Bejeweled Late Night” experience taking place on Saturday. That special finale of the gala evenings, sponsored by ALTO, included drinks, photo opportunities and dancing beneath the diamond decor to the sounds of Houston’s Radio Live Band.
Over the past decade, the ball has raised more than $8 million for community programs.
PC Seen: Charity Ball chair Elizabeth Roath Garcia, Bethany and Ben Buchanan, Nicole and Rob Thornton, Mary and Weston O’Black, Lara Bell and Brent Milam, Allyson and Jacob Heiner, Megan and Jordan Brown, Rachel Regan, Amanda Boffone, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Stephanie and Peter Skarzens, Jane and Garrett Johnston, and the JLH council members Sydney Goss, Courtney Durham, Emily Shushtari, Tamra Wilkerson, Amanda Hanks Bayles and Megan Anson.
By Shelby Hodge