Junior League of Indianapolis makes strides in community

Volunteers raise funds for education

INDIANAPOLIS - The Junior League of Indianapolis has worked to make the community a better place to live since after World War I.

Over the years, the all-volunteer women’s organization has donated millions of dollars and countless hours of volunteer work.

"The biggest change we've seen particularly over the past 10 years, is we have much more of a population of working women," league president Nicole McCulloch said.

McCulloch is an engineer for Rolls Royce, but still finds time outside of work and her family to give back to the community.

"My family's really really supportive, they know I go to meetings that I'm doing something good and they see that I love it," McCulloch said.

Most of the 300 active members are professionals who have jobs, but that certainly wasn’t the case 92 years ago when the group was formed.

"So when the Junior League was formed, it was really kind of a radical idea, that these women were out, in the public working with people," archivist Lynda Cook said. "Boy how times have changed."

Cook said the first major project the league took on was helping Riley Hospital for Children.

"The occupational therapy department at Riley Hospital was really in need of not only volunteers, but people who could go in and organize and get other people to volunteer, and so they called upon the Junior League," Cook said.

Old black and white photos help document some of the 160-plus projects in which league members have been involved.

"One that we're particularly proud of is when Franklin Roosevelt came to visit. And he actually, we had it set up so that there were children in the window with our volunteers behind and he drove up in a car, because of course he had mobility issues," Cook said.

"If we look back over our 90-plus-year history, most of our projects have supported health and education of children and their families. And going forward, we've really decided to focus in on education," McCulloch said.

The league supports education not only through volunteerism, but annual community assistance grants of $100,000.

Much of that money is raised during their annual Holiday Mart at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

They support five main organizations – Girls Inc., School on Wheels, Indy Reads Family Literacy, Day Nursery Center for Infants and Toddlers and Happy Hollow Children’s Camp.

What makes the Junior League so inviting for women is not just what they give, but what they get in return.

"We find that a lot, that a lot of women join because they want to do volunteering in the community. And they often find that there is a lot more that they're getting out of it personally … and I think that's what makes us unique," McCulloch said.

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