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

November is Filled with Shining Stars!

by January Boten

The following members were honored at the November General Member Meeting with a “Shining Star” Award!

Congratulations Christina Paunicka!
Christina is on the Festival of Trees committee and has been willing to not only take on additional tasks when asked, but she has actively gone out seeking additional businesses in the community without being asked.  She has secured additional items from places we have never asked from and all because she has seen the need.  Christina contributed to the overall success of our Festival of Trees.

Congratulations Ashley Morgan!
As a League Locker committee member, she is very proactive in attending the store shifts and going above and beyond to keep things running smoothly.
She brought that same level of commitment to the communications council, by keeping the team informed of all League Locker updates and being available to help keep our social media current.  In fact, she was more than willing to use her media industry access to promote League as much as she could.  Not because she was asked to, but because she was genuinely excited to share all the great things that League is doing.

Congratulations Kelli Berry, Caitlin Drake, Julie Knott, Katie Madigan, Jami Tanner, Bridgette Thompson, and Joanna Willis!
The Bright Starts assistant chair and committee members have shown incredible enthusiasm and dedication to making the first year of Bright Starts of successful.. Their professional experience, volunteer background, overall knowledge, and most importantly, their desire to see the first year of this project build a strong foundation for Junior League to make a difference for young children and the families in our community is inspiring. They have devoted energy to raising awareness in the community, creating relationships with other organizations, creatively responding to budget requirements, anticipating and responding to programming challenges, and developing a strong first year project. Every member has actively participated in meeting, planning, and executing each and every session. They have stepped up to fill roles, helped and supported each other, and worked together as a team. The commitment and generosity they have shown to each other, to league, and to the community with their time and efforts are hallmarks of the Junior League spirit.

The Elves are Busy at Work, Getting Ready for Festival of Trees….

Hi! I am Sprinkles the Elf and I am one of the elves from the North Pole that wanted to lend a helping hand to Junior League of Champaign-Urbana to start the holiday season early. First, we want you to think about some of your favorite holiday traditions…decorated trees, music, family, friends, and gifts are some of our favorites. So, we have been very busy getting ready and setting up this year’s Festival of Trees! We also have some elves helping on the decorations for the “Snowflake Ball” Daddy Daughter Dance. Up here in the North Pole, we are ahead of schedule so we are sending Santa and Mrs. Claus down to spend time with you.   We are excited to show you all the amazing trees and wreaths, raffle prizes, silent auction items, and gift vendors!

To enjoy this wonderful celebration of Festival of Trees, we elves decided that spending time with family is a great way to start. Busey Bank has helped sponsor the “Snowflake Ball” Daddy Daughter Dance, and it is a perfect place for Dads and their daughters to get dressed up and create lasting memories. You can even pre-purchase your photo session with Illini Studio of Champaign to make sure you can have a token of these memories to look back on. Besides desserts, raffles, and dancing the night away, dads and daughters will have the first chance to see all the trees and auction items available at the Festival of Trees.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to be landing their sleigh at the Hilton Garden Inn on Saturday, November 22, from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM and again on Sunday, November 23 from 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM They would love to extend their visit, but the reindeer games begin on Monday and they need to be back up at the North Pole for the opening ceremonies. Santa and Mrs. Claus are excited to see each of you, so please make sure to stop by to give them your Christmas list.


We have spared no creative elf magic when it comes to decorating the Christmas trees. We have over 20 trees with fun themes for you to enjoy, including Baby’s 1st Christmas, Classic Christmas, Country Christmas, Frozen, Home for the Holidays, Illini Christmas, Little People Christmas, Northwood Christmas, Peace on Earth, Pretty in Pink, Restaurant Tree, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, Snow and Ice and Everything Nice, Sweetest Holiday, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Do not worry about your parents, as we elves have come up with some fun activities for them too. We have asked a few of our gift makers to be at the festival. This way parents can get an early start on their gift purchasing. The vendors this year are Anna’s Skinny Wraps, Cheer Elegance, Custom Flooring and Interiors, It Works!, Norwex, Origami Owl, Perfectly Posh, Thirty-One and Wyldewood Cellars.   Not only do we have vendors, but we also have gifts that your parents can bid on, like 3 gingerbread houses designed by local bakers and artists, a George Strait autographed guitar, St. Louis Ram tickets, and a wine tree, just for starters.

We wanted to make sure that you walk away seeing the magic of Christmas and help us elves spread more Christmas cheer. We look forward to seeing you this weekend at Hilton Garden Inn. If you want more information about Festival of Trees and the Daddy Daughter Dance please go to Junior League of Champaign-Urbana’s website


3 JLCU Members receive prestigious “40 Under 40” Award from Central Illinois Business Magazine

By Lanae Clarke

Since the inception of Central Illinois Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Awards, the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has seen many of its members honored for their leadership, community service, and outstanding achievements throughout the community.  This year is no different.  In fact, Becca Guyette, a member since 2007, achieved the prestigious title of Woman of the Year.  Additionally, two others in the JLCU membership, Katie Madigan and Kelly O’Neill, were both acknowledged for their contributions.  Becca, Katie, and Kelly embody the tenets JLCU has been founded upon through their continued promotion of voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving their communities.

Previous to their service with JLCU, each of these women have performed duties both personally and professionally exemplifying their leadership skills above and beyond the call of duty thus proving their resilient strength of character.

Becca Guyette

As published in her bio, Becca Guyette’s mission, as the director of leadership giving at the United Way of Champaign County, is spreading the word about the good works of an organization she believes in and helping others find a way to support it.  “My joy is matching passion with resources — when people have resources to give and a passion, and finding a mission for them to support,” she said.  “I feel what we are doing in the community is life-changing stuff,” Guyette continued. “The United Way is not about charity, it’s about change. The change is what excites me.”

Early in life Becca was exposed to the joys of community service through her family’s devotion to their church and those in her small community in Paulding, Ohio.  She took these qualities to heart and melded them with her skills while in college at Bowling Green State University.  Through her work in student government involving the development side of fundraising, she realized her true calling was to enrich the community through community service.

Like many other women in JLCU, Becca only happened upon Champaign-Urbana in 2001 because of love.  She entered the University of Illinois to pursue her master’s degree in organizational communications while her now husband finished his law degree.  The rest is history as they say, and after successful positions with the University YMCA proving her finesse at hitting fundraising goals, she was actively recruited this past year by Sue Grey, the United Way of Champaign County’s President and CEO.   She had volunteered for the United Way as a program funding reviewer and on a committee, and she was familiar with the organization and passionate about its mission. “Becca is someone I had my eye on for a while,” Grey said. “She brought some fresh perspective to us, on analysis of our donors and where we needed to go.”

Like many in the JLCU membership, she balances her role as a mother, while also balancing her volunteer time with JLCU.  She and her husband have already begun talking with their older child about the importance of community service.”  I think it’s so important for people to have a sense of civic responsibility,” Guyette said.

Katie Madigan

Katie Madigan’s service in JLCU has spanned a number of years.  She has balanced successfully the tasks of raising her daughter, serving in numerous roles in JLCU, and also tending to the needs of those she teaches throughout the Unit 7 school district.  Recently she received the prestigious Elizabeth Alexander Award in May, so this award acknowledging her talents as one of the 40 Under 40  just follows in line with the spirit of her commitment to the community-at-large.

Fellow winner and nominator, Laura Bleill, CEO of, gives a succinct synopsis of Katie’s talents.  “Katie’s dedication to causes she believes in is exemplary. She is devoted to making the community a better place to live and to helping children.”  Katie not only tries to benefit the children throughout the community in her work as a speech-language pathologist, but she is also involved in many organizations which tie her professional skills to her community relationships: Board positions on JLCU, specifically Community Impact Council Director, Co-Vice President of the Thomas Paine PTA, CU Cradle to Career, Member of the Leadership Council and Kindergarten Readiness Goal Group, United Way Emerging Community Leaders, and religious education teacher at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Her ability to portray her commitment to the children in the community can best be summarized by her response when questioned about the rewards in her work with children professionally and personally. “Working with young children, especially those with disabilities, can be quite challenging but also holds so many rewards. I feel accomplished every time one of my students learns a new sound, a new word or a new communication technique.”

No matter what the task is at hand, Katie exceeds the goals and brings perfection to each individual she encounters, especially if it is a child in need.

Kelly O’Neill

Kelly joined JLCU unlike many in previous new member classes.  She took to heart the community service instilled in at University of Illinois during her undergraduate years through her sorority’s community service projects.  Because of this, she brought a new energized spirit to JLCU and has not stopped lighting up her professional and community projects since.

Recently she was promoted to Associate Director, Illinois MBA Student and Academic Services and Recruiting Programs.  Obviously this hasn’t dimmed her commitment because she has lit her path brightly the few years since she graduated from University of Illinois with her commitment in other endeavors.  Associations like CU One-to-One Mentoring; the United Way Emerging Community Leaders program; Beta Theta Pi advisory committee; Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Organization president and advisory committee chairperson have benefitted greatly with her time and efforts to improve community efforts and leadership.

Fellow JLCU member and nominator, Caitlin Drake, summarizes why Kelly is so successful in her endeavors, “Kelly’s dedication to bettering herself, women and the community at large is remarkable. She leads such an immensely full life but always makes time for service work and her friendships.”

Keeping in line with her mantra, she lives by the credo, “Dreams don’t work unless you do!”

Congratulations to each of these women as they continue to reach their goals and dreams while enriching the JLCU community!  They are truly leaders and deserve the credit they are due while showing each of us through hard work and leadership, everyone can truly make a difference.

JLCU Represented in the CU Schools Foundation Annual Adult Spelling Bee

by January Boten

On Saturday November 8, I was able to represent JLCU at the CU Schools Foundation Annual Adult Spelling Bee.  It was a blast.  Our team consisted of myself, Cleda Wang and Andrea Fain.  We were excited when we arrived to see all of the other teams in their fun costumes ready to compete.  We were in the second round of spellers so we were able to walk around and see how the bee would work.

While we were walking around and people would find out we were from JLCU they were so excited to see us.  Several teachers told us about how much of a benefit our Junior League locker is to them.  Another teacher told us about how she attends the Festival of Trees each year and one year won a Gingerbread House that she brought to her school for the kids to enjoy.

When it was finally our time to spell we were nervous!  However, we kept getting words that we could spell and before we knew it we had won our “Swarm” and were moving on to the finals.  The finals were exciting because we were announced with all of the other Swarm winners and had to spell our words up on the stage with everyone in the room watching.  We made it through the first few rounds, but were eventually eliminated with the word “innards.”

The spelling bee was an amazing experience and it was made even more fun by being able to represent our organization and hear how much we mean to the teachers in our community.

League Life