JLCU March Madness!

March Madness means different things to different people. Sure, there’s basketball, but the madness of March hardly ends there. We have the madness of the never-quite-ending winter (which seems to finally be on its way out), getting ready for a much-needed Spring Break, and of course, the balance of the last months of the JLCU year for our members.

The March General meeting is always packed with great information. If you were with us, thank you for making the time. If you missed the meeting, here’s a little about what happened:

• We slated our placement advisors for the 2015-16 year, including an additional spot to help meet the needs of the new member class for 2014-15
• We activated 33 new members
• Completed a DIAM for Daily Bread Soup Kitchen (don’t fret if you missed it…we will collect more fresh fruit for this worthy community partner at the April meeting with another DIAM)
• Heard an update from the Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee- If you want to read more about this important committee’s work, we will be posting details soon.
• Awarded three CAF grants
o $400 to the Reading Group to purchase books for children reading below their grade level
o $950 to the Dream Girls Academy Inc. for curriculum assistance for girls (6th grade and up) to foster life-ling learning and the prevention of domestic violence and child abuse
o $140 to Girls On The Run (part of the Stephens Family YMCA of Champaign) to purchase books about life skills for girls (grades 3rd-6th)
• Hosted the Spring Council meetings, which included a chance to talk about what goals the Councils want the Management Team to consider when outlining goals for 2015-16
• General announcements included information about:
o Juleps & Jockeys, the 3rd annual Kentucky Derby event, Saturday, May 2nd at Jupiters at the Crossing – Tickets on sale now! $25 ($30 at the door)
o Congratulations to the Fundraising Committee for all their hard work – we are getting closer and closer to our goal! We are especially proud to share the Gala committee spent well below our $.28 per $1 – going to great lengths to keep costs down and still hosting a great Mardi Gras Gala!
o The proposed volunteer package for 2015-16 – a few changes for sure – check in with your advisor to make sure you know what your requirements will be next year
• Shining Star for March, 2015 – Congratulations to Fundraising Chair Jennifer Large!

The April meeting (which promises warmer weather, right?) will be Tuesday, April 21st at the Champaign Country Club at 7 pm! See you there!The April meeting (which promises warmer weather, right?) will be Tuesday, April 21st at the Champaign Country Club at 7 pm! See you there!


February 2015 Happenings…..

Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has been busy these winter months fundraising, bonding, learning and strengthening our community!  Here are the highlights from this past month…


JLCU and members of the community came out for a fun night of dinner and dancing at our New Orleans themed Masquerade Ball held February 21st at the Champaign Country Club.

The funds raised by the event are going to support Junior League Bright Starts and help our kindergarten readiness project grow and sustain past its inaugural year.   The live auction featured some great packages like a Ski trip to Breckenridge, a Family trip to Disneyworld, a Chicago Shopping trip and the Princess Package for the Daddy Daughter Dance next fall.  The live and silent auctions and the paddle raise helped JLCU raise over $30,000 to support Junior League Bright Starts and we are grateful to all who attended and participated.

One of the highlights of the event was the speech given by sustaining member Amy Armstrong, who helped launch Larkin’s place at the Stephens Family YMCA in honor of her daughter, who was born with Downs Syndrome and other severe conditions.  Amy was eager to point out the great institutions that are part of our community today thanks to “Junior League at work.”

February General Member Meeting

This past month’s meeting featured the reading and vote on the bylaw change for Article 5 Dues and other Financial Obligations. There was also the reading and vote for the 2015-16 Nominating Slate. We would like to congratulate the following members to the Board of Directors, Management Team and other slated positions: President Elect Jennifer Romine, Secretary Katie Blum, Sustainer Representative Amy Chamley, Executive Vice President Danielle Wilberg.  Treasure Elect Andrea Singh, Communications Council VP Ashley Morgan, Finance Council VP Stacey Kresge, Membership Council VP January Boten, Community Impact Council VP Sara Olson, Assistant Nominating Chair Emily Wickstrom Neal, and Nominating Committee Member Denise Poindexter.

The guest speaker for the evening was Deborah Frank Feinen, a partner at Tummelson, Bryan & Knox, LLP, and a Champaign City Council Member. Deborah spoke about how JLCU is important to Champaign and how much they give back to the community. She also spoke about being a strong community member by speaking and spreading the word of our mission.

With 2015-16 placement opening, members were introduced to committees in a new way. The “Placement Speed Round” was where a representative from each committee provided information about the tasks on their committee and any other pertinent information about their committee.  The Speed Round took the place of the Placement Fair that we have had in years past.

February’s Shining Star was Jen Schmidt, who was nominated by Jami Houston for her excellent work on the nominating committee during this busy and exciting time!

Fund Development Creates Fun Nights Out!

Art Party StudioThe most recent Fun Development event was also a Game Night/Girls Night Out!  11 JLCU members attended a special event at the Art Party Studio to paint, enjoy wine and refreshments and raise money to support JLCU.

Where Are They Now:  Past President Danielle Wilberg

The League Life Blog is about sharing the impact that Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has on the community, the people it serves, and its members.  It is important to look back at past members or participants in JLCU’s programs to reflect on JLCU’s mission and what lasting changes have been made.

***When we first tracked down Danielle for this interview, we wanted to share her story of her years with JLCU, her presidency and what she was up to since she went sustaining.   During this process, however, she re-activated her membership, has been very active with the Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee and is now slated to the 2015 – 16 Management Team as Executive Vice President.   So, our “Where is She Now” story is instead a feature on a strong and influential member of JLCU and we are excited to share her contributions on our blog. ***wilberg_danielle

Our first interview is with past president Danielle Wilberg.  JLCU is grateful to women like Danielle and all those take on roles in the JLCU Governance Board and Management Team.  This is a full time responsibility that they choose to take on,  in addition to all of their other daily activities.  These women are what make Junior League an amazing place to volunteer and to give back to our community.

Danielle was president of Junior League Champaign-Urbana in 2011-2012.  Prior to being president Danielle had served on many committees with in JLCU, including FOT (2005 Chair), Membership Development, and Nominating & Placement (Chair 2008).  She is currently working on the Public Affairs Committee as our League’s SPAC A Representative (State Public Affairs Committee) and is on the Governance Committee for AJLI (The Association of Junior Leagues International).

After her presidency, she chose to go sustaining, but then re-activated her membership this year.  Her decision to go active was to continue to help JLCU in new ways and through new opportunities from what she learned serving at the international level.

Here is a little background information on Danielle. She was born, raised, and is raising her family in Champaign.  She got her B.A. at the University of Illinois and is working at Activate Alumni as Chief Strategy Officer.  She is married with 2 kids, 11-year-old Ricky with is in 6th grade and Murphy is 8 and she is in 3rd grade.

Danielle may not be a JLCU legacy, but with her mother and mother-in-law being members of Junior Women’s Club (an organization for women to volunteer in their local community) it’s no wonder that she has made volunteering a big part of her life. Besides being active in Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, Danielle volunteers for multiple organizations like: Association of Junior Leagues International Governance Committee, United Way Power of the Purse Chair, and Volunteer Coordinator for the 6th Grade Basketball Team.  What little time Danielle does get to relax, she enjoys watching Bravo and having a glass of red wine.  This just shows you how amazing our JLCU leaders are and how they continually want to give back to their community.

Danielle says, “I owe more to JLCU than I ever thought possible.”  She was able to do work that she loved while helping out the community, she learned skills to help both her professional and volunteer experiences, she learned about leadership, how to take risks, how to run a non-profit, how to deal with conflict, how to raise money, how to better a community as a collective voice and finally the friendships that she made.  These are all amazing skills, traits and experiences that other women can have when they join JLCU.

We asked Danielle for some information on AJLI, since not many local people are aware of what AJLI is and how they can become part of AJLI.  She got started with AJLI as part of their dues task force committee.  “I believe in the Junior League movement and I believe in where AJLI is going in the future.”  With her position on the governance committee, she has to understand where the association is heading, as they are responsible for recruiting a board that will be able to understand both sides of the future vision.  AJLI is expanding their ways of recruiting new leadership and are offering several opportunities for Junior League members to get involved internationally.  If anyone is interested in AJLI, Danielle encourages you apply to attend ODI, watch the AJLI emails for special task force announcements and don’t be afraid to apply for a governance position.  She also wants to make it known that you do not need to have been president, to serve with AJLI.

Finally, Danielle’s advice to current JLCU members and those interested in becoming a member, “Keep doing the spectacular work that you’re doing.  I think of all the projects that JLCU has started that have made CU a better community and I can’t wait to see what’s next.  I also want to say thank you for the commitment you’re putting in – that commitment will pay off threefold if you stick with it – I promise!”

January General Meeting

Were you unable to make it to the General Meeting on Tuesday, January 20th? This is what you missed:

IMG_1965The evening started off with a provocative Community Panel on “A Conversation about Advocacy” with panelists (Starting on the right) Lynn Stuckey, a Unit 4 School Board member, Kerris Lee from Storyboard Café Inc., Cris Vowels, Principal at Urbana Early Childhood School, and Danielle Wilberg from My Super Marketer. We learned about the roles that each panelist plays in our community, how we can work together, and what we could learn from one another.

Principal Cris Vowels shared her thoughts on how JLCU’s mission statement is a great way to start advocating for funds to support Early Childhood Education. She mentioned that for every dollar spent on preschool, $7-$14 dollars come back into the community through a reduced need for spending on other services. This is a great way for Junior League to promote our new project Bright Starts and to get more funding to help this project develop and grow. Danielle Wilberg continued on about the next steps to advocate for preschool and to think about the larger picture. “You do not want to get pigeonholed into only one statement.”

Kerris and Lynn left us with great motivational pieces about how perseverance is key and not to be afraid to be the one to take the lead.

After the community panel we heard from Paula Massey from International Hospitality Committee. The International Hospitality IMG_1966Committee (IHC) is a volunteer organization founded in 1952. IHC offers programs to help international University of Illinois students, faculty, staff and their families during their stay in the Champaign-Urbana community. The goals of the IHC are to promote an enjoyable experience for international visitors, to facilitate their adjustment to their new environment, to aid them in improving their English skills, and to encourage understanding and friendship between local residents and people from other countries. This also benefits you and your families in broadening their experience with other cultures and languages. For more information about IHC you can go to their website


We finished the evening off with the announcement of our Shining Star Award. Ashley Miller (New Member) nominated by Meghan Fisher (New Member)

Ashley took the lead on putting together the Princess Package to be auctioned off at the upcoming Gala event. As part of the team who is helping gather donations, I have been thoroughly impressed by Ashley’s organization and responsiveness throughout this process. Any time I have reached out to Ashley she is very quick to respond, and provide even more information than asked. I’m so thankful she is leading this, and her hard work deserves to be recognized!

We hope you will be able to join us for the next General Meeting on February 17 at the Champaign Public Library.

JLCU Ended 2014 with Fundraising Success and Holiday Cheer!

Happy New Year to all of our members, sustainers, supporters, community partners, and friends!

The members of Junior League of Champaign-Urbana were busy through the end of 2014!   We had our largest fundraiser of the year and holiday social… here are some highlights:FOT 2014

Festival of Trees and Daddy Daughter Dance

The Junior League’s Festival of Trees started off with a shimmer and shine in the Daddy Daughter Dance Winter Wonderland.   The Daddy Daughter Dance is a special event where Dads and their girls get to dress up, dance, eat amazing desserts and create lasting memories… while getting the first sneak peak at the Festival decorations and prizes!

We tried something new this year with two different seating times.  We wanted to create the chance to entertain the little girls and get them home to bed, while the older girls could attend the later seating and enjoy the night with their dad a little longer.  We had a total of 425 attendees to both times.  Illini Photography was there to take portraits of Dads and their dates and Sweet Pea Photography captured pictures of the girls getting their faces painted, hair styled and dancing the night away.

The Festival of Trees open hours were on Saturday and Sunday.  There were so many amazing trees, wreaths and other decorations to see and children got to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Vendors offered parents a chance to start their Christmas shopping, and guests took a chance to win all the trees, wreaths and prize packages in the raffles and silent auctions.

Junior League has been hosting Festival of Trees for 19 years as one of their major fundraising events.   We are grateful to our guests, sponsors, vendors and partners who helped us raise almost $50,000 to support our important community projects.

December Holiday Social

Every December, the JLCU membership takes a break from formal meetings and gathers in a relaxed setting to enjoy the holiday festivities and comradery of fellow members.  This year’s event was held at the Larry Kanfer Gallery for the first time, which allowed members to enjoy the art and even try for a chance to win a free print!  Thank you to our Arrangements committee for putting on a lovely event and to all of our members who brought wine and treats to share!2015 Holiday

Our DIAM (Done in a Meeting) for December was collecting unwrapped toys for Salt & Light Ministries.

Shining Star

Cherie Kessler, VP of Finance Council this year, was named Shining Star for December.  Here is what nominator, Charlotte Miles, had to say:

I nominate Cherie Kesler for the Shining Star award because of the light that she shines on everyone in her life. I look up to her every day as a friend, mentor, and woman because of the insight and compassion that she gives wholeheartedly. In her JLCU career, she has held many positions, volunteered many hours, and given this group a lot of direction and support. But the best thing about Cherie is that she gives wholeheartedly without expecting anything in return and with a beautiful smile on her face. I have never met another woman who was so unselfish and joyful at the same time. This is why I think Cherie Kesler is the epitome of the Shining Star award I can’t describe how much I will miss her.Dec Shining Star

Charlotte Miles, VP of Community Impact, has chosen to step down from the Management Team, as she is moving to Florida this month to explore new and exciting ventures.  JLCU thanks Charlotte for her dedication to our league and wishes her well on her journey.

Junior League of Champaign-Urbana had a busy and productive 2014 and is ready to jump into 2015 with excitement to continue developing and improving our projects:  Junior League Bright Starts, Junior League Locker and Kids in the Kitchen.

We are also looking forward to our upcoming Gala event, which will be Saturday, February 21st at the Champaign Country Club, and Juleps & Jockeys, our Kentucky Derby party, on May 2nd at Jupiters at the Crossing.

May your New Year bring you happiness and success for 2015!

Done in A Meeting (DIAM) – November and December, 2014

By Katie Jessup

I love this time of year, everyone is in such a giving mood.  The members of Junior League of Champaign Urbana (JLCU) are no different.  Every month at the monthly meeting the organization collects items for a local charity and the months of November and December are perhaps our most successful every year.  For these two months the organization collected unwrapped toys and gifts for Salt & Light Ministries.

Unwrapped presents

In November Nathan Montgomery, the Executive Director of Salt & Light, came to the meeting to discuss the new direction that the organization was taking.  The new vision statement for Salt & Light is:

Our programming is rooted in the belief that everyone has skills, talents, gifts, and abilities given to them by God.  Our intention is to work with each person – instead of for them – to identify each of these things, and to increase their capacity to use them for themselves, their family, and their community.

This foundation comes from a principle found in Toxic Charity which states “we should not do for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves.”  By doing for others what they can do for themselves, you disempower them and strip them of their dignity.

We believe that one of the first steps in restoring dignity is to develop systems of reciprocity, or give and take.  In most one-way giving models we unconsciously communicate that the person has nothing we need, or nothing of value to contribute to the “transaction.”

This is damaging to their sense of self.  However by creating systems in which we offer opportunities for the person to contribute towards acquiring the needed resources, we reinforce their capacity to do so, and they gain the sense of pride that comes from providing for themselves and their family.

Their mission echoes what Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has always strived to accomplish with each new project.  The purpose of Junior League Bright Starts, our most recent project, is to educate those who value education and are eager to participate and contribute.  We work towards filling needs in the community, but also for individuals to grow and be empowered by the process.

This DIAM collected close to 80 new toys in November and December to be delivered to Salt & Light for the holidays.  Thank you to our membership for your support and generosity.

Remarks from Denise Bates, 2014-15 JLCU President

Season’s Greetings to all our members, community partners, supporters, and friends!


I cannot believe how fast this year is flying by.  The end of November marked the half-way point of our Junior League of Champaign-Urbana 2014-2015 year.  I challenged our members at the September General Meeting to get their “Game On” this year and I am so proud of the work that has been accomplished.  Thank you to all of our members who have given 100%.  Our dedication to advancing the Junior League Mission by promoting voluntarism, improving communities, and developing the potential of women continues to be proven by all that we do as a League.  Thank you to all who supported our local charitable partners including Crisis Nursery and Salt & Light with your generous donations of snacks and unwrapped toys.

Our organization’s focus area, providing basic needs for school readiness, was put into practice this year.  I had the pleasure of attending the first Junior League Bright Starts event at the Urbana Early Childhood School.  I was impressed by how well it ran the first night.  Thank you to the committee for doing such a great job and to Urbana Early Childhood School for partnering with us to attempt to fill a much needed gap in services in this community.   Thank you as well to our other project committees Junior League Locker and Kids in the Kitchen; both projects continue to provide much needed services in this community.

I am so thankful to all individuals, organizations, and businesses that have supported our JLCU fundraising efforts this year.  Every donation assists our ability as an organization to continue our community outreach throughout the year.  Thank you to the Fundraising and Fund Development Committees for all of your hard work this year.   A special thanks to 301 Mongolia and Custom Flooring for your partnerships as well.  Their generosity is what keeps JLCU going strong.  Our fundraising committee truly outdid itself, putting on a fantastic Daddy Daughter Dance and Festival of Trees.  This was my daughter’s first Daddy Daughter Dance and I know that it is something that she will never forget.

Thank you in advance for those that will continue to support JLCU by attending the Gala on February 21, 2015, at the Champaign Country Club and the Juleps and Jockeys, Kentucky Derby Party on May 2, 2015, at Jupiter’s at the Crossing.  We have set our fundraising goals high this year.  We hope that members, sustainers, and the community will continue to support our efforts by supporting our events.  Please help us have another successful fundraising year so that we can continue to serve our mission in the community.

Denise Bates, President

League Life