“It was my first exposure to nonprofit board work,” she said. “I learned how to run a committee, how to fundraise, and I learned a great deal about how to organize people around a project and get things done.”
The Junior League has been a part of the Tyler community for 60 years. In that time, the organization has contributed more than $6 million and hundreds of thousands of required volunteer hours to Smith County causes.
The organization was started in 1950 by a group of 13 women who “recognized a need for organized volunteer service in a rapidly growing city with ever changing needs,” according to the website.
“The immediate goals of the organization were to serve and strengthen the Tyler community and to become a member of the national organization of the Junior League. On Feb. 1, 1960, the Tyler Service League was admitted to the Association of Junior Leagues of America.” according to the website.
Today, the league boasts 282 active and provisional members and 516 sustaining members.
Along with donating funds and volunteer hours to more than 170 programs covering a litany of causes, the league was also instrumental in founding the Hospice of East Texas, Stewart Regional Blood Center (now Carter BloodCare), The Discovery Science Place, the Tyler Museum of Art and Tyler Teen Court.
Like many of the members of the organization, Zoe Lawhorn, vice president of development and public relations for Meals on Wheels Ministry Inc., made many friends and mentors from her eight years at the Junior League, she said.
“It's been pretty significant for me,” she said. “It's hard to overstate it.”
Mrs. Lawhorn has a degree in publishing from New York University, but said she learned everything she knows about public relations from working on Junior League campaigns.
While businesses sometimes struggle with maintaining an attitude of teamwork, the Junior League does it well, Mrs. Lamar said, especially for their biggest fundraiser of the year, “Mistletoe and Magic.”
“It's incredible,” she said. “I mean, they set up a city. It takes such organization to coordinate the hundreds of volunteers.”
Though the women in the Junior League come from all walks of life, they all have a spirit of volunteerism in common.
“That feeling of personal fulfillment to answer a community need or enrich the lives of others is why I joined the Junior League of Tyler 14 years ago,” Mrs. Sheridan said. “I had no idea when I first joined the The Junior League of Tyler how it would broaden my horizons and what it would teach me about working with others.”