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Meet the 2018-2019 JLCU President – Jenn Schmidt

Junior League of Champaign-Urbana

General Meeting held Tuesday, Sept 18th at the Wesley Food Pantry

Our President for 2018-2019 Jenn Schmidt started our year with a proclamation. Here are some excerpts:

“I want you each to know what an honor and a privilege it is to be standing up there as your president tonight. But, for those of you who know me, you know you that standing up here in front of you scares me to death. When I joined JL I had every intention of making new friends and having a positive impact in our community by doing my volunteer hours and serving as an outstanding committee member.

I NEVER saw myself as a leader.

So often our fear keeps us from trying something new. Our minds exaggerate the consequences and worst-case scenarios that we allow that negative perspective to hold us back. I have been so lucky that through my time in Junior League I have been inspired by women unafraid to be vulnerable, who lead by the example, extend words of encouragement and exude a collaborative spirit which has empowered me to try things I never thought possible.

So, thank you for trusting me to lead you this year in spite of all my fears and flaws.

My challenge to each of you this year is to let Junior League be a place where you try something new. This is a safe place to do something that scares you a little. You are part of a strong organization that has been serving this community for 86 years and it not will fail if you make a mistake. You are surrounded by women who have a multitude of resources and are here to support you and help you persevere.

By embracing this challenge, we will continue to build our organization and accomplish this year’s goals which include:

  1. Looking honestly at Diversity and Inclusion
  2. Redefining our membership experience by implementing the Membership Transformation Rollout
  1. Take a deep dive into our long-term finance Campaign Planning

Remember that your personal growth comes when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, learn from your failures and overcome your fears. I am so excited to share this journey with you.”

Getting to know a little more about Jenn –

Why you joined JLCU? 

I had recently moved back to town from TX and my best friend from HS was joining and I wanted to hang out with her and to meet some new people. My mom had been in JL and I remember going with her volunteer around the community planting flowers, painting, delivering supplies to non-profits.

What has been your best experience in JL? 

I loved serving on the Project Development committee. I was able to learn so much about our JL projects and our community partners. I learned the importance of our annual plans and partnership agreements in documenting the work being done in the community. I also learned that it was okay to think outside the box and try new things.

What do I do in my off time? 

I am currently in the PMBA program. Between work, school and JL I don’t really have much free time these days. When I do have free time, I love to travel and read fiction and spend time with my friends.

My favorite place in CU… There are so many! I love U of I sporting events, attending shows at Krannert and the State Farm Center and having cocktails at the Tumble Inn or just around my friend’s kitchen tables.

Alma Mater & degree – B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois. Currently enrolled in the MBA at the Univesrity of Illinois Gies College of business Spring 2020 cohort.

I have a 2 year old dog names Olive. She is half Havanese and half Podengo Pequino, so basically a mutt. She is small and sassy.

Favorite Quote:

How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live ’em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give ’em.
– A Light In The Attic

Here’s to our new President, Jenn Schmidt. We look forward to a year of trying something new that scares us, just a little!

~ Amy Riha

Marketing and Communications, Chair 2018-2019




Can you first start off introducing yourself, and talk about your involvement with the Junior League? My name is Abby Hobbs. I have lived in Champaign for almost 26 years. My background is in Public Relations and special event-planning, fundraising, that kind of thing. While in Champaign, for most of the time, I’ve been a really active volunteer. I did do a stint of paid work for Champaign County YoungLife, which is a nondenominational Christian Outreach Ministry. [As for] my involvement with Junior League, I joined almost right when I moved here, when my children were young. I really was involved with all the different aspects of JL. I first got involved with the community projects, but then was also involved in Membership Development, nominating and placement of members in their different jobs. I was also involved in fundraising for a little bit, and I actually got to be President for a year while I was a member– lots of different experiences, which was great because it was nice to see all the different sides of the organization. I am currently a Sustainer […] which is exactly what we do– we pay dues to the organization to sustain their work, and then there are occasional Sustainer events, and they reach out to us for help with different events now and then.

26 years ago… what attracted you to join Junior-League? Two different things: At the time, the training aspect of JL didn’t necessarily attract me. I had done previous work in special events and fundraising, and felt like I knew how to run an event. But, I ended up learning a TON and ended up getting really great training, but that wasn’t what attracted me at first. Because I was brand new to the community, and because my husband grew up here, I kind of wanted to make my own friends… so I liked the idea of joining Junior League and making these connections. I really did meet people in JL who I would have never met in other circles, or our paths wouldn’t have crossed. They were working at the University, or didn’t have children, or had older children. It was a great way to broaden my friendships. I knew enough about JL as an international organization to know that they are really well-known for making an impact in the community, so I thought “Okay, if I can make friends and get involved with an organization, then that would really make sense for me.”

Have you found meaningful friendships from JL over the years?Absolutely. I will see people I was on a committee with years ago, and it’s like we have never not seen each other, and we just kind pick right back up. So many times, I feel like some pretty cool relationships forge when you’re working together on some sort of community project. The very first project that I worked on was so much fun. It was back in the day when inclusion for children with mental and physical challenges was just really starting to hit the scene […] This was a time when students and families were weary of students with challenges being mainstreamed into their classroom. In the elementary schools in Champaign, we did life-size puppet shows. Usually one of these puppets had a disability, and the other one was a child with no disabilities. […] We would go into classrooms, and talk to kids about other kids with disabilities about how they were just kids, like they were. It was unbelievable! These second and third graders started communicating with these puppets like they were real people, asking them questions. They would be brutally honest– “Well why are you in that wheelchair? Why does your voice sound like that? Do you go to the bathroom like I do?” It was the coolest thing to see kids really engaging with these puppets. That was my first Junior League experience, and some of the friends I made during that project are still my friends today. It forms this foundation that lasts a lifetime.

In your own words, how would you describe Junior League’s mission? What do you think are the main opportunities it provides for community members? I think its mission is threefold. It is empowering women through great training opportunities to be ready to make an impact in the community, all while building relationships and encouraging fellowship among people who care about their community.  There are organizations in Champaign-Urbana that were started from scratch from JL that exist today and to this day are making a big impact in kids’ and families’ lives. Crisis Nursery is one that I think of that is very near and dear to the hearts of the JL. It is such a great asset to our community. I think it used to be that JL had this “pearls and white gloves” feel to it, with hoity-toity women who just kind of give their money to projects. I really do believe that JL has made enough of an impact in these communities that people don’t think that anymore. They know that we are roll-up-our-sleeves women, who are really willing to get into the trenches and do the work– whether it’s literally getting into the trenches and building a playground for Courage Connection, or whether it’s helping organize a fundraiser, or helping training board members. I think that we’ve built a good reputation in the community that people trust us to make a difference.

What would you like to see from JL in the future? I really love the direction they are going in right now. As opposed to creating new projects on their own, they are teaming with other nonprofits in town to help them with something they need help with. I think whoever you volunteer with in Champaign-Urbana, you come to the conclusion quickly that there are a lot of organizations out there with a lot of financial needs. If JL can put their resources, both manpower and financial resources, towards another nonprofit that’s really trying to accomplish something great that’s part of the JL philosophy, it makes a lot of sense to come to their aid. I also really like the idea of increasing the training goal a little bit more. We have had some different training opportunities [in the past], and I think it makes so much sense for JL to say “we should be the organization that organizes some really great opportunity for women to come together and go down different tracks depending on what their needs and interests are. [JL can] be a hub for empowering women to be the best they can be. I really like that future dream, and think they can capitalize on that. We are all looking for ways to better ourselves, whether we are working, or at home… we are all looking to make the most of our lives, and do whatever we can to change our communities, so I think JL has a pretty unique spot in our community to be able to bring women together.

It seems like the JL is really a strong connector and facilitates a network of these women. Absolutely. I also really like how the JL is becoming more diverse too, so I think they are able to plug in to even more parts of the community, which I’m really excited about.

What do you wish the community knew about the Junior League? If someone moved here, what would you tell them about the Junior League? It is a great way to get to know the community, get to figure out how you want to make a difference in the community, while making great friendships and working side and by side with women who have that same philosophy.

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Junior League? Impact.

#JLCUimpacts Erin Murphy

Photo Option 1What is Sistering CU and how did you come about the idea?


Sistering CU is a non-profit that recruits and trains volunteers to go to the homes of families with new babies for the first twelve weeks after birth, for two hours a week. So volunteers will go two hours every week for twelve weeks to help out usually a mom so that she has extra parenting hand, so she can take a nap, take a shower, pay bills, call a friend, or maybe play with her older children, you know, whatever she needs. Or, if she needs help running errands, volunteers can help, like if she needs to go to a grocery store or Target, the volunteer can watch the baby while she gets stuff done. So that, you know, she feels a little relief, and hopefully gets some time to herself. Because research show that if they get two hours, or even an hour a week, it can reduce rates of postpartum depression.


How did you connect with the JL from Sistering CU? What was the process like applying for the CAF grant?


It was very straightforward. They have it laid out, all the requirements that what you need to make the application. As long as your organization aligns with the things they are trying to support throughout the community, like children’s health, for example, or the health of the family, it’s pretty clear how your organization can fit with the CAF grant. So that’s why we have applied for it, and have have been successful in the past with it.


How has Sistering CU applied the CAF grant for expanding its resources?


When we first applied, we were brand new, and we needed help getting marketing materials out. We used the grant to help pay for marketing materials like flyers and pamphlets, to put out. These help explain to the community who we were, what we were doing, and how we can help, because we want to get our name out there so that moms will request our help, as well as to to recruit more volunteers, too.


What is the first word that comes to mind when you think about the Junior League? How would you describe the JL?


I think of women’s leadership, and how women demonstrate their leadership. It’s usually through supporting the community, supporting families, and trying to make a strong foundation so that everyone in the community thrives, and not just particular groups. When I think of the JL, I think of them trying to look at a more holistic picture of leadership and how the community can be improved.


How many mothers have you worked with so far with Sistering CU? Are they recurring families?


We served 17 families so far in our first year, and they are individual families. Some of the volunteers have been recurring they have taken a few different families, but it has been 17 individual families so far.


We saw that you have two programs that are listed as “coming soon” on your website: Life After Birth Family Support Groups and a “Preparing for the 4th Trimester” class. Could you talk a little bit more about these programs?


On May 16th, at the Urbana Free Library, we are hosting a free documentary film screening of the documentary “When the Bough breaks,” narrated by Brooke Shields, and it’s about postpartum depression. May is Perinatal Disorder Month, so that’s why we are hosting it in May. It’s co-sponsored by the Urbana Free Library and also the IDEA Coalition. At that event, we will have a panel of local experts talking about the local resources for postpartum depression. At least three out of ten women who have given birth will experience a perinatal mood disorder. and it’s probably more like four out of ten, because it goes undiagnosed very often. That panel of experts will be there to answer the questions about what we have locally, and at that point, we will roll out our postpartum class plan, and announce what we have. We are working on the postpartum resource guide, so that women, and the family together, can think about that fourth trimester and can think about the resources they do have, how they can organize it and be prepared. When the fourth trimester hits, I mean, that’s a real thing– it’s a healing, it’s a physiological healing, and if you are adopting, there’s still a physiological component to bonding, and sleep deprivation, and all of that.  Getting a plan together of what your resources are in terms of community, what your resources are in terms of services you might want to look into is really important, that’s just what we want to get people planning for.


You mentioned adoption– How does Sistering CU cater to different types of mothers, such as adopting mothers, single mothers, or mothers from low-income families?


Anybody is eligible. It doesn’t matter if you gave birth or adopted, and it doesn’t matter what your income is. We strongly believe that anybody who has a newborn baby needs help, and deserves help. We want to be there as a community for them, as this can be a really joyful time, but it’s a difficult time as well. We want to be there to help with the joys and the difficulties– it’s all normal. We just want be there to help because, especially in our culture, moms are not focused on, and they need to be, because the mortality rate in the United States is very high compared to other industrialized countries, and we can do better. It is so obvious and so simple, and there’s things we can do and all we have to do is get organized and do it.


What would you like to see JL doing in the future?


The JL [does] focus on children and do focus on families. I would also like them to focus on women, and women’s health, in and of itself, because I think women…we matter. We don’t have to only matter in terms of our service to somebody else. I would like to see that on the agenda, and [show that] it’s okay that we want to take care of women, too.

#JLCUImpacts: Cynthia Bruno

image1What organization are you from? What does your organization do?

Our organization is called Girls Go For It and we are an afterschool program currently in the champaign community. We are focused on making girls feel more empowered and lighting the candle for the entrepreneurial spirit and really helping them develop as leaders.

Why did your organization choose to focus on 5th graders, specifically?

We choose 5th graders for a very specific reasons. One of the things we were looking at when we started this program was that really wanted to make an impact for these girls going forward. We started noticing that test scores for girls were starting to drop between 5th and 6th grade looking at publicly available information. We thought maybe there is a tie between how they feel confident in the classroom and what their test scores are showing. If we can get in and try to increase that confidence and develop those leadership skills before they have those drops in scores maybe they will be more engaged in school and succeed in their academic careers.

Girls Go For It’s end goal is “to go forward with the armor of knowledge, education, confidence, and a plan.” Why and how did you choose these goals?

Let me give you the backstory of how Girls Go For It was born. I was a mentor at the Champaign school system and my mentee at the time was in 5th grade. I went to her classroom, and she has a picture of everyone in the class on a chalkboard of what they want to be when they grow up. I was so excited because she’s said “doctor,” and when we were talking a little bit more about it, she said, “I don’t know if that’s what I want to be because we just had to write something to take this photo.” Where she wants to be when she grows up was not part of the conversation. I was with some friends who were also doing the mentoring program that noticed the same thing. We thought, what can we do to help these girls get some professional development experiences early on, so they have a plan and know what it takes in 5th grade, high school, and beyond to get to the level they want to be. Planning has been a big part of our curriculum because we want to expose them to decisions they have to start making pretty early on depending on what career choice they want to go on. It’s not like they have to stick to the plan in 5th grade but when you start understanding what it takes to plan and what it takes to reach a goal you can do that so much faster if you are changing your mind.

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think about the Junior League?

Passion – because I think that it’s filled with people who want to make a difference. When you join the Junior League, they are very upfront that it is a community service organization, which is part of their mission. But, from the people I have met from the organization have some element of being mover and shaker to them, and I love being around that energy.

What do you wish the community knew about the Junior League?

I think that Junior League is a strong center of influence in this community and it is filled with women who are passionate about making a change, and who are dedicated to helping those in need. There is so much heart behind what the members do individually and together, so I would want more people to understand that it is a resource for the community, but it is also a place where you will find passionate people that will help YOU understand the cause. It is an excellent source of funding with CAF grants and that kind of things, but it is also a place for you to spread your message about what you are doing for the community.

How has being part of the Junior League influenced your involvement in other organizations?

I founded Girls Go For It after I joined the Junior League and quite frankly a lot of Junior League members were inaugural board members and continued to serve with Girls Go For It.  It is so great because JL is all about the potential of women and Girls for it is about reaching the potential of younger women, so it is a great tie to have those two organizations supporting one another.

Where do you see Girls Go For it five years from now?

We want to be wherever we can help whether that could be more schools around here or branching out other communities and other states. We want to expand. We just want more women to feel empowered and, however, we can best do that and best reach those people we want to be there for them.

Happy Holidays – A Year in Review

Happy Holidays c0abaef8c648c6e046b8df9a2b0c2d5a

From the desk of tIMG_2404(1)he President of Junior League of Champaign-Urbana

2017 has been an incredible year of growth and change for our league.  It has been a time to reflect on our history, appreciate where we come from and actively evolve into the inclusive, flexible and dynamic organization we truly want to be.   All year long, we have been celebrating our 85th Anniversary,  sharing the stories of our past accomplishments with our members and our community.  Mayor Feinen of Champaign and Mayor Marlin of Urbana to share a proclamation at our 85th Anniversary Gala during Festival of Trees weekend.

We made some bold moves in 2017.  We welcomed Vicki Clark in February, to help us understand what Servant Leadership is all about and why we strive to make Junior League a place for women to connect, learn, and make a difference.   We stood up to the challenge when Courage Connection was faced with the risk of closing their doors and created the Match for Courage, raising over $150,000 in the final weeks of their fundraising campaign.  We launched a new Project Model, allowing us to partner with local agencies to build stronger relationships, expose our members to different experiences and broaden our outreach.   We aligned with Crisis Nursery, finding new ways to help them overcome obstacles by writing letters, participating in work days, and raising over $16,000 at our Gala Auction and Paddle Raise.  We are standing strong knowing that we have made an impact on the lives of the women and children who use the services of these vital programs.

We worked together to host our signature event, Festival of Trees, with over 90 trees and wreaths on display.  Thanks to the astounding success of FOT weekend, we raised the funds to support our Kids in the Kitchen and Bright Starts programs, as well as the grants and scholarships we distribute each year.  We can say with certainty that we are making a measurable difference.

We end this calendar year knowing we have so much to be proud of as an organization and as individuals.  But our work is not yet done.  We still have ambitious goals ahead.  We laid the groundwork to roll out a membership model transformation, which aims at increasing member satisfaction and retention.  We are deep in a review of the financial health of the organization and will be making long-term strategic decisions about our fundraising efforts.  We are excited about training opportunities and fun new events coming in the spring.  We are continuing to develop our members and encouraging everyone to step up into positions of leadership.  I can truly say that the more you put into your experience with Junior League, the more you get out of it.

For now, let’s all take a breath and be thankful.   As we all go forward into the hustle and bustle of the holidays, remember to enjoy the little things.  Each moment with family and friends is a gift to be cherished.  I have cherished each of you this year for the part you play and I celebrate you!

Much Love and Happy Holidays,





I hope you didn’t miss the year’s Junior League of Champaign-Urbana hosted the 22nd Annual Festival of Trees at the Hilton Garden Inn. For the organization’s 85th anniversary, the Festival was bigger and better with over 90 trees, wreaths, and vignettes on display to enjoy and win.



During the Gala Celebration Saturday evening, sponsored by Clark Lindsey, we announced our new Project Partnership Program and introduced Crisis Nursery as the first selected partner for this program which provides financial and volunteer assistance to local non-profits. A live auction and paddle raise brought in over $16,000 which will go directly to support Crisis Nursery’s mission to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.  Live auction packages included a VIP Shopping Trip to the Kendra Scott store in Chicago, a Private Tour of Historic Downtown Champaign, a week’s stay in an Orlando resort, and a Private Painting Party with Lola’s Brush.

Other highlights of the evening included a proclamation by the Mayors of Champaign and Urbana, special guest Marilyn Thies, who served as pre

sident of Junior League from 1970-72 and a live performance by Katie Flynn, Central Illinois’ premier jazz and cabaret singer.

“The Gala Celebration was not only an opportunity to celebrate the history of Junior League of Champaign-Urbana,” remarks Junior League President, Jenette Jurczyk, “but it was an extraordinary platform to launch our partnership with Crisis Nursery by raising funds and awareness for this important institution in our community.”



The Festival of Trees served as a festive backdrop to the weekend’s events, which also included a Daddy Daughter Dance Friday night, sponsored by First Midwest Bank, and Breakfast with Santa Saturday morning,

sponsored by Iroquois Federal.  The Festival was open to the public Saturday and Sunday and was enjoyed by hundreds of community members, hoping to win a tree or wreath to enjoy for the holiday season.  Each year, Festival of Trees raises tens of thousands of dollars to support Junior League’s community programs such as Kids in the Kitchen, Junior League Bright Starts, high school scholarships, Community Assistance Fund Grants, Leadership Training and the new Project Partnership Program.

A huge thanks goes out to all of our sponsors, tree decorators and contributors, and the Festival of Trees committee for all their hard work that made the exciting events of the weekend possible!

JLCU members march in the Parade of Lights as a THANK YOU for all of our wonderful sponsors of FOT!

Member Spotlight: Heather Miller

img_9753Junior League member Heather Miller, is in her first active year with JLCU and happens to be the assistant chair of Festival Of Trees which is coming up November 17 -19.  She moved to Champaign a year and a half ago, but her family has been here for 17 years, so she “came home” in a sense, but is technically new to the area. She spends her daytime hours as the Office Administrator for the local McDonalds franchises, and has 1 dog named Pinkie and 1 cat named Grimace.

She agreed to answer some questions for us about herself and Festival of Trees!

JLCU:  When and why did you join JLCU?

Heather: I joined Junior League last year.  I was looking to meet people and find a way to get involved with the community.  My family (parents and brother) have lived here for about 17 years and while it was great to move close to them I also want to find my own identity and JL has helped me do that!

JLCU:  What has it been like planning FOT this year?

Heather: Totally and completely crazy – in a good way!  Seriously though, it’s actually been great!  Our chair Emily Cross is super organized and very good at giving direction, she has been able to make decisions quickly and easily and any time there is anything at resembles a setback she takes it so well and just problem solves a solution.  The board and management team have also been VERY supportive, helping with everything from initial vision to getting donations and general planning.  Of course the committee has been amazing.  They have worked diligently for the past several months, and they are still giving everything they can in time and energy down to the last minute to make this the best FOT yet in celebration of our 85th year of League in Champaign County. They are amazing and I want all of them on the committee next year with me!  I have personally never planned an event at all, much less something to this scale, and to see it all come together and the amazing  teamwork that has happened makes me very proud to be a part of it, so I know we will have successful event!

JLCU: What aspect of FOT are you most looking forward to this year?Logo_FOT_Large-300x247

Heather: EVERY.SINGLE.MOMENT!  Truth-telling time though … I have never been to the Daddy Daughter Dance or Breakfast with Santa, so I’m really excited to be at those specific events because I keep hearing they are so special for families to attend together!  I really can’t wait just to see people at the public hours as well, enjoying the start of the holiday season amidst all the trees and decorations.  We are going to have over 85 trees and wreaths and donated items, I can’t wait to see people walking around looking at our little winter wonderland.  Overall, I’m excited to see the kids excited about and enjoying the displays with their parents.

JLCU: What are your JLCU plans after FOT is over this year?

Heather: This is going to sound crazy, but …start planning for Festival of Trees for next year (<3 ❤ <3)!  As the assistant chair this year, I will be chair next year, and I couldn’t be more excited to keep the momentum going from this year! So, we want to start planning right away based on the aspects that go really well, and the areas we can keep improving.  In short, I’m going to be full-time Festival-of-Trees-Champion until this time next year!

JLCU: Any advice for next year’s new FOT committee members?


#1. This committee is a lot of work but it’s all fun work! I love the holiday season and getting to prep for that year round with a group of awesome women in order to support amazing organizations within our community… I call that a!

#2. I think it’s important to remember that we are a committee and not just one person so at no time are you alone!  We are here to support, help, grow, teach, and learn from each other, which is truly what Junior League is all about – women supporting and empowering other women!