99 Reasons Why Junior League Membership Matters

Reason 1:  Training

Membership Matters, our theme of the year announced last week, can mean so many different things. We are an organization made up of remarkable individuals and we each have our own “why” we continue to be part of JLN. During this 99th year, I plan to highlight 99 reasons why JLN membership matters. These will be featured in no particular order (although I could say that reason number 1 is perhaps our most impactful).

Number 1: Training. As a training organization, we prioritize helping our members learn and grow. To that end, I wanted to highlight the resources and events (featured below and on social media) to help educate our membres about racial justice, that have been compiled with the help of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council These resources are the beginning of important conversations and trainings in the coming League year. Stay tuned for future Tuesday News editions and our social media channels about future opportunities for training in all forms.


Reason 2: Connection

When I walked out of my office in early March, I had no idea that three months later, I would still be working from home. Working from home is a thing that some people love but not this extrovert! I find myself really missing my in-person connection with other humans during this time. “I can see your legs!” is not a phase I ever thought I would say with excitement but I sure did, during a drive-by birthday parade, shout this out to a friend of mine. A whole person – there in front of me (from a safe 6’ feet of distance of course), instead of a Zoom image!

This time of distance makes me really appreciate another reason why Membership Matters…..

Number 2: Connection. Whether it be your committee, at social events, or during a training – JLN officers so many ways to form connections with other women. Even though we aren’t together “in-person” at this time, I encourage you to stay connected in all the virtual ways possible. Everyone should be hearing from her committee or project chair soon for a beginning of year check-in, so make sure you establish that connection. Enagin in some of our virtual opportunities – like the trainings and book clubs highlighted below. As Vicki Clark, trainer extraordinaire, said during our Zoom Council training last week, Junior League is a relational organization. Establish those relationships, those connections now and stay connected with our amazing group of members.


Reason 3: International Women’s Movement 

125,000.That number means something to each of us even if we don’t realize it. Is it the number of Zoom calls we’ve had in the last three months?  Maybe. (But that’s not what I mean this time.) 125,000 – the number of members in 290 communities in 4 countries that comprise the Association of Junior Leagues International. Junior League of Nashville is part of the association which makes each one of us part of my next “why membership matters”:

Number 3: An International Women’s Movement. With a 119-year history, AJLI has evolved into one of the oldest, largest, and most effective women’s volunteer organizations in the world. Being part of an international women’s movement means we are not only working to change the lives of women and the community here in Nashville but we are working collectively to make the world a better place. As a member of JLN, you also have access to all the resources and benefits AJLI has to offer. I encourage you to check out their website (link to www.ajli.org) and learn more. In addition to providing League specific resources, there is also an array of personal and professional development resources including an array of online training. I especially recommend checking out the Online Learning section  (link to: https://www.ajli.org/?nd=onlinehome). (Note, use your JLN login information to access the members side of AJLI’s website). There is a whole library of resources and archived webinars in this section that can help each of us develop our own potential…which in turn moves this international movement forward.  Thanks for being part of the movement!


Reason 4: JLN By Design

We’ve had several Admissions meetings recently (one more coming up on July 8 if you know of interested women) and I’ve found myself highlighting to each group of prospective members how different the last 18 years of my life have been since I joined JLN. Eighteen years ago, I was three years out of college, working in downtown Nashville as a conference planner, and living with a college friend – enjoying all that young adulthood had to offer in the early 2000’s. My career, life, and family look very different now, but what is one thing that has remained constant throughout those 18 years with the League? The ability to make it what I want/need at any different stage of my life.

Reason 4: JLN By Design. Krystal Clark, past president in our 2017-2018 year, summed this up so well with the theme “JLN By Design.” (With the complimentary #myjln hashtag too…still in use today – tag us!) The idea that you can design a League experience you love, have the ability to own your own experience, and take responsibility for your own experience is really remarkable. Each year, you can adapt your experience as your life ebbs and flows – one year, maybe you sign up for a placement that is already in your skill set so it’s an easier lift on your to-do list. The next, you might choose to go to every training possible to learn new skills because you have more time in your schedule. Yes, we have some requirements that help each of us stay accountable to our individual commitment, but we have the opportunity each year to think about how we want to develop, what skills we want to learn, and what opportunities or direct service we want to do. Our members get to continually choose what their paths look like – that’s quite a benefit – and design their own personalized women’s development experience!


Reason 5: Support-We’re All in this Together

Last night, we had a virtual training that featured Tracy Kornet, News4 Anchor. The training, “Speaking on Camera 101,” was helpful and so relevant for the webcam world we are living in right now. She gave great advice about all the different aspects of being on camera – pacing, filler words, presence, and beyond. I took some good notes (and find myself sitting with a little better posture this morning – one of her tips). But the biggest takeaway for me was when she shared the below advice.  I’ve listened to the recording to make sure I captured her words correctly – she spoke so beautifully to my next reason why JLN Membership Matters:

Reason 5: Support – We’re all in this Together. To quote Tracy: “That’s why you all are in Junior League. To build your skills, to gain confidence, to network with people, and to truly believe that we are all in this together. And there is enough pie for everyone. There is enough success for every single one of you watching out there, there is enough success to go around, for you to be your best self and for you to offer help and show love to everybody around you whenever you possibly can.” Tracy continued, “There is nothing better than having women to cheer you on and not trying to cut you down and steal your pie.” It’s so important to support each other and remember they’re not taking your success from you.  There is enough for you all of you to do your thing and do what you’re meant to be doing on this planet with your purpose and the gifts that you have been given individually.”

We are all in this together so I encourage each of us this week to think about the support you can give to and receive from other members this year. What purpose and gifts are we living out to show love and support to those around us?


Reason 6: Leadership

Any woman who chooses to be in the Junior League is choosing a role of leadership in our community. As John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” That sounds like the definition of a Junior League member to me! There are opportunities within our organization that provide additional focus and deeper training by serving in formal leadership roles. I want to highlight some of those as my next reason Membership Matters:

Reason 6: Leadership
These formal leadership roles include the Board of Directors, Management Team, Nominating Committee, and our Council (committee and project chairs, provisional and transfer advisors). I’m so grateful for these groups of women who said yes to a role that provides experiential training on leadership – whether it be a small committee or large. Skills learned through our leadership range from how to run an effective meeting to conflict resolution and beyond. Learning by doing is so effective and JLN provides those opportunities!

I asked each of our Team 99 leaders listed above to share their reason why JLN Membership Matters and to help you get to know individual leaders a little better, I’m sharing a couple today.

Elizabeth Wood, Recording Secretary – “Membership Matters to me because Junior League women have contributed so much to my life, I’m honored to be able to give back to other members through leadership.”

Claudia Byers, Active Director – “JLN membership matters to me because I want a comfortable place to continue to grow my potential as a leader, both personally and professionally.”

Where can your leadership journey in JLN take you?  Lead on!


Reason 7: Influential Voices

One of the banks in my hometown would always send any customers who were recognized in the local newspaper a congratulatory note with a clipping. I’ve always thought it was a nice acknowledgment. To this day, I love seeing friends and colleagues highlighted in the local news.


Our members are doing amazing work and are often recognized publicly for it, which leads me to my next reason membership matters:


Part of our Vision 22 Statement that guides our work is that by 2022, JLN will be known as…an influential voice in a dynamic and growing city. Recent examples of this are members recently recognized by the Nashville Business Journal. 


Congratulations to Carmen April WashingtonBrenda Gadd and Lane Conger Maples (Women of Influence) and Johari Mathews (40 Under 40)!


They join a long list of members who have been on these lists for their contributions to the Nashville community. Being part of an organization where influential voices can come together and make a bigger impact on the community makes JLN a special place. 


How will you use your influential voice to better our community this year?


Reason 8: Featured Placement of the Week

This week, I am introducing a new part to our series “99 Reasons Why Membership Matters” and that is “Featured Placement of the Week.” Throughout the year, I will highlight each of our placement opportunities because each one, in and of itself, provides a reason why membership in this organization matters. This week, I’ll start with our Advocacy Committee.

The Advocacy Committee works to keep our membership informed and educated on important issues that impact our organization. This includes issues related to each of us as individuals using our own voices (note the information about our upcoming primary election below) and issues that impact women or our current focus areas (human trafficking and literacy). The women serving on the committee this year include: Agnes Bartek, Laura Blum, JS Bolton (Chair), Mallory Dunavan, Supriya Kanal, Olivia McKown, Coco Pannell, Tanya Washington, and Christian Williams (Chair-Elect).

I’ve thought a lot about the words “advocate” or “advocacy” in recent weeks, even beyond the work that our Advocacy Committee is doing. What causes do I personally support with my time, my actions, and my dollars? What education do I need to be a better advocate? I’m understanding the differences between advocate, ally, and activist and what my role should be. I’m looking forward to seeing all the ways our organization can be an advocate through the work of these women and ways I can in turn be a stronger advocate myself.


Reason 9: Training Committee 

My daughter attends a Metro Nashville elementary school and started 2nd grade today (virtually). The delivery of content looks different right now but the educational subjects are similar to what I had in second grade – ELA (English Language Arts), Math, Science, Social Studies. As she starts this new learning adventure, it makes me think about how much I’ve always loved to learn. I truly subscribe to the idea of being a lifelong learner who seeks to regularly acquire new skills and capabilities even after my formal education.

This week’s featured placement of the week is tasked with helping us all be lifelong learners – one of the biggest benefits of membership in this organization – and that is our Training Committee.

Whether virtual or in-person, this group of women regularly finds a variety of topics that appeal to any member to compliment whatever lifelong learning path she is on.  The next few offerings (highlighted below) range from being healthy at home, financial confidence, to women’s suffrage! The women serving on the committee this year include:  Emmy Banks (Chair), Narja McElroy, Heather Mufarreh, Jamie Murphy, Brittany Pinheiro, Karen Riddell (Chair-Elect), and Ashley Stephens. 

Be on the lookout for more great programming from this committee this year. Where will your lifelong learning journey take you this League year?


Reason 10: Planting Trees (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

One of my favorite quotes is one I will always associate with Junior League because it was in this setting that I truly understood the concept of servant leadership. As servant leaders, we focus on others first, rather than our own needs as leaders. We seek to promote the well-being of those around us, which can mean we don’t always accomplish what we planned to or on the timeline we had hoped. The quote I mention solidified this idea in my mind. I’ve heard slight variations of this quote over the years, but the version that we have on a plaque honoring past Presidents outside our Headquarters reads this way:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson

This month, we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. There were women’s rights activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony whose lifetimes were filled fighting for women’s suffrage and equality. Neither of them were alive to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment – they never got to sit under this ‘tree they planted.’ (Lookout for an AJLI email coming later this week about an event celebrating the 19th Amendment anniversary – more info below.)

When we “plant trees” or work to effect positive community change through the actions of trained volunteers,” we often do not see the work come to fruition.  Just as there was work left to do with voting rights after this point in time 100 years ago.  After all, it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Black women gained the right to vote. In our own organization, our work with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion will continue to plant seeds to help strengthen the future for all women in the Nashville community.

So as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the women’s right to vote, I encourage each of you to join me in thinking about our legacy – as an organization, as a community, and as individuals.  What trees are you working to plant now – what cool shade will you not feel because the legacy will grow long after you’ve left the tree?


Reason 13:  Soirée Virtual Auction Chairs – Megan Grant and Halley Hale

The new theme of in-person events in 2020 should be “Crashed by COVID,” as last spring, we set aside our plans for our annual “Soirée.” Even though we were unable to hold the in-person event last April, I am beyond excited for the creative thinking that is bringing you JLN’s first ever Soirée Virtual Auction this weekend!

One of my favorite parts of our annual event (that necessitates a separate line item in my personal spending budget!), is the silent auction. Knowing that we already had auction items in hand when we cancelled our event, we decided to pivot the focus of this event and go forward with a virtual auction. As many of you know, the net proceeds of our Soirée go directly to our Community Endowment, which is used to support our community partners. So even though we weren’t able to have the larger in-person event, we are able to proceed with this virtual event and still have an opportunity to raise funds that will continue to support our community.

Megan and Halley have been working hard all year to rework our auction to a virtual setting and I am so appreciative of their willingness to pivot and also make sure that the event was still able to happen.  I would also like to extend my sincere gratitude to all members who supported our 2020 event – including the active members on last year’s planning committee, anyone who purchased a ticket or became a patron, and even beyond our membership to our corporate sponsors.

I’m excited for a little bit of “retail therapy” this weekend and hope you will join me to support our League members and our community.


Reason 14: We impact our community (in Childhood Literacy)

A child’s third-grade reading proficiency has a direct impact on his or her long-term chance of success into adulthood. As few as three years ago, data showed that 2 in 3 Nashville third-graders were not reading on grade level.  This is a challenge that our community has struggled with for decades and I’m so proud that JLN has members working on internal programs and alongside community partners to help address this disparity in our community. A collaborative and coordinated effort across multiple community stakeholders can help create a rich literacy environment in our city and I’m glad JLN is part of this important effort.

In honor of National Literacy month, I encourage us all to think about ways we can make an impact this month. If there are children in your life, inspire them to have a September Reading Challenge and read as much as they can. Share an article about why literacy (at any stage) is important. Give yourself a personal challenge to prioritize reading this month. Participate in a literacy focused event, like our September General Membership Meeting, to learn a little bit more.


Reasons 15 Membership Matters – Book Em & Pencil committees.

JLN volunteers working with Book’em volunteer throughout the community by reading to classrooms, sorting & stamping books, and providing support for Book’em events throughout the year. This year, our Book’em volunteers have been reading books virtually with their classrooms and are coordinating contactless book distributions. In 2019 Book’em, donated over 117,00 books to students across middle Tennessee.

Members serving with Book’em this year are: McKenzie Beaver, Courtney Bisig, Kerry Dunn, Kaelinn Garner, Lyn Knopf, Hayley Landsberg, Ashley McEachern, Sarah McFarland, and Catherine Pattison (chair).

JLN volunteers working with PENCIL volunteer at their family events. They also support fulfillment of their PENCIL box that provides free supplies to teachers to eliminate barriers to learning, which includes providing free school supplies to teachers. This year’s virtual opportunities will include making food box deliveries for students in need.

Members serving with PENCIL this year are: Chairselle Bryant, Erin Collar (chair), Mary Lauren Hughes, Bethany Jackson, Victoria Lockhart Katz, Elizabeth McLemore, Mary Ostman, Melissa Poole, Kara Tumbleston, Edith Valenzuela, and Teresa Vo.

Thanks to these groups of volunteers for the impact you are making in our community.


Reason 16 & 17 – Preston Taylor Ministries & Book Drive

How are your reading goals coming?  We’re midway through September (not sure how that happened) and we continue our literary journey featuring two more of our literacy focused placements.  This brings us to our next 2 reasons “membership matters” – Reason 16 – Preston Taylor Ministries and Reason 17 – Book Drive.*  

JLN members placed with Preston Taylor Ministries have the opportunity to volunteer weekly with one of PTM’s  established programs or with one of several special events hosted for PTM students throughout the year (like Dolls for All).  Virtual engagement opportunities will be the focus for now, which will help provide the students relationships with a caring adult, which is a predictor for success for any youth.

Members providing these relationships to students this year include: Allison Beck, Skyla Colston, Brooke Coplon (chair), Julia Couch, Carly Cylinder, Laura Duncan, Whitney Jones, Kate Kreutziger, Mary Lovell, Brittney McClafferty, Kristin O’Brien, Brianna Powell, Concetta Smith, Courtney Smith, Cacky Tate, Samantha Tate, Alison Templeman (chair), Elizabeth Townsend, and Ashley Travis. 

JLN members placed on the Book Drive committee work to collect new and gently used books from members and the greater Nashville community to distribute to our partners (in conjunction with Book ‘Em). The first Book Drive of the year is happening right now (details are below) and we are especially seeing books that show diverse characters and ages.

Members working on Book Drive committee include:  Catie Barger, Hailey Blank (chair), Kenna Healy, Gen Heskje, Catherine Price, Laura Ramsey, Megan Rodriguez, Thomasa Ross (chair), Brooke Shippee, Lindsay Sproles, Sarah Timaeus, and Samantha Troup.  

Thanks to these groups of volunteers for the work you are doing!


Reason 18 & 19 – McNeilly Center and Youth Villages  

JLN has partnered with the McNeilly Center for more than two decades. The McNeilly Center is now one of Nashville’s largest providers of child care for low-income families, offering infant and toddler care as well as a preschool program. Our volunteers help support the early childhood literacy initiatives within the McNeilly Center for Children curriculum by volunteering in their classroom and supporting literacy events. JLN members volunteering with McNeilly Center include:  Heather Adams (chair), Anna Cragon, Bridgett Garratt, Kristin Sanslow, Lindsey Sexton, Andrea Stilwell, and Memorie White. 

JLN has partnered with Youth Villages for the past 5 years by providing a grant at the beginning of the year that goes towards tutoring the children in their community homes. Youth Villages helps children and families live successfully and is a nationally recognized leader in the field of children’s mental and behavioral health.

JLN members volunteering with Youth Villages include: Kristina Brothers, Sarah Connors, Katie Gray, Sarah McGehee (chair), Michelle Warren, and Anne Zalatoris. 


Reasons 20 & 21 Membership in JLN Matters: Moves & Grooves and Safe Haven Family Shelter. 

Moves & Grooves offers before and aftercare for children around Nashville, as well as hosts an annual summer camp. Moves & Grooves works to enhance academic achievement of children through creative arts programs, including integrating reading and writing with music and movement. Our volunteers will be assisting with their upcoming virtual Halloween event as well as assisting with teaching virtual classes to children who want to learn dance techniques.

Members working with Moves & Grooves this year include:  Tanisha Kizer, Jamie Means, and Carla Smith (chair). 

Safe Haven Family Shelter, a JLN partner for over two decades, works to support, empower, and advocate for families experiencing homelessness. Safe Haven believes that parents and children must be kept together in order to ensure security, success and self-sufficiency. Our members who select a placement with Safe Haven participate in group activities like providing dinners, organizing family activities, and helping with childcare during parenting classes and tutoring.

Members working with Safe Haven this year include: Sonia Boss, Jennifer Camargo, Meredith Capps, Candace Fox (chair), Samantha Knee, Rachael Ledbetter, Sara Lynes, Rebecca Mohr, Ashton Proctor, Brianna Taber, Katie Tait, Megan Williams.

Thanks to all our volunteers working to make a direct impact to improve literacy outcomes in our community!


Reason #22: Nominating Committee 

Our Nominating Committee serves the important role of identifying and slating our future leaders, ensuring that all slated members of the Board, Management Team, and Nominating Committee will be successful in their roles. The process begins with interested members filling out a Willingness to Serve form, which is open now through October 18. I encourage anyone interested in leadership to consider whether this is the right time for you to commit to the League in this way. I can tell you from personal experience, my League leadership has been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life!

Our members serving on the Nominating Committee this year include: Dana Bybee, Jennifer Colquitt, Ashley Corley, Maggie DeVier, Meredith Eason, Elisa Goodrich (chair), Megan Kelly, Claire Martin (sustainer adviser), Allie Reed, Maleah Stephens (chair-elect), and Ashley Wood.   


Reason #23: Your Individual Voice is Valued 

Another part of our JLN Vision 2022 states that we have a “shared commitment to a mutually beneficial membership experience.” The words “shared” and “mutually beneficial” represent a two-way conversation. This two-way conversation can happen in a variety of ways; one-on-one interaction, committee or project meetings, or from official surveys, like the Membership Survey rolled out last week (see below). We would love to hear from each member – about your overall satisfaction with the League right now, your views on our diversity and inclusion efforts, member requirements, communications, and more. Your Team 99 Leadership team will review this information and share with Team 100 leadership as well so that we can continue to provide that “mutually beneficial” membership experience. We also plan to share the information with our membership as well, so that we can all work together to hold ourselves accountable for the efforts we are making.


Reason #24 Sponsorship & Donations Chairs

As a nonprofit, we rely on the generous support of grants, corporate partners, and other organizations to help bring our mission into action in our community (click here to see our current list of League sponsors!). Our Sponsorship & Donations chairs provide expertise and guidance to our League development efforts as well as serve as a clearinghouse for all asks in the community. They also work closely with our staff and committee chairs to ensure that all donor benefits are met so that we can continue to have successful donor stewardship each year. The team also looks for new funding streams from grants to opportunities like our new partnership with Minted.

Thanks to these members who continue to help our development efforts in support of our mission: Elizabeth Labella and Lauren Petrovich.