#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.

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Happy Holidays – A Year in Review

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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,

Jenette

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JUNIOR LEAGUE’S FESTIVAL OF TREES GALA CELEBRATION RAISES OVER $16,000 FOR CRISIS NURSERY

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.

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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.”

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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!

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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?

Heather: ABSOLUTELY!

#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 win.win.win!

#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!

JLCU News: Membership Transformation Rollout

Seeking Volunteers for Membership Transformation Rollout
The Junior League of Champaign-Urbana leadership has decided to join the Association of Junior Leagues International in their Membership Transformation Rollout.  During this first year of our membership model transformation, a committee comprised of Jenn Schmidt, Jenn Smist, Lonndon Blake, Sara Hubbard and January Boten are being trained on the rollout details and implementation process.
We are currently seeking members to volunteer for our pilot cohort in the 2018-2019 League Year.  Interested members should email January Boten at january.boten@gmail.com.  The committee will notify members in January if they have been selected to participate.  The committee will be selecting participants to include a diverse cross section of League members in order to preempt issues which may arise during the transformation before the model is expand to the entire League membership during year three.
This new structure will allow members to explore how for League can work best for them.  Hopefully this model will inspire all of us to re-imagine our commitment to Junior League in new and exciting ways.
Informational sessions about the Membership Transformation will be held prior to the November and January General Membership Meetings.  If you have any questions, please contact one of the committee members.

October 2017 General Member Meeting Recap

Who went where?

Laura Gerhold, Jennifer Schmidt, and Jenette Jurczyk attended the AJLI Fall Leadership conference in Salt Lake City, Utah October 12-14. One stand out aspect of the conference was when current presidents of Junior League in cities impacted by recent tragedy (Hurricane/Texas/Las Vegas) shared their outreach efforts within their membership and to support vicitims in their communities, with the support of AJLI and other leagues.

Community Spotlight & JLCU Connections

COMMUNITY: Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club – Jordan Hornickel the Academic Services Coordinator shared information about a new facility called the Martin Center to open in 2020!

JLCU CONNECTION: Kids in the Kitchen – Amy Riha shared about the October success where the theme was “All about Veggies” for kids 5 – 8 years old, who afterwards received quite a fun workout with the firemen who came to help out!

COMMUNITY: Urbana Early Childhood School – Cris Vowels the Principal shared some information and statistics to help us better understand the obstacles and opportunities within our community as they pertain to the Early Childhood Center. For example:

  • 60-100 Kids at risk are on the waiting list for pre-school such as Head Start.
  • For every dollar spent on pre-school $7-14 return on your investment for the community
  • Children who have attended pre-school: listen better, more emotionally secure, healthy relationships, sit in groups, and less likely to be incarcerated

JLCU CONNECTION: Junior League Bright Starts (JLBS) chair Jami Tanner shared more information about how you can get involved in this fun and rewarding volunteer opportunity!

  • Assistance and Volunteer duties:
    • 5:00-7:00 Soft Set-up and classroom assistance
    • 5:15-7:15 food service and sibling care.
  • If you have children you can bring them to Bright Starts!

Community Impact Model

Crisis Nursery partnership plans and needs were communicated by Miranda Smith and Mary Wakefield. Check out these volunteer opportunities.

  • Thursday, Nov 9
    • Casual dress-will be working on holiday shop need 10-12 people, 6-9PM
  • Saturday, Jan 27
    • Crisis Nursery workday activity TBD Noon-3PM
  • Monday, Feb 19th
    • Crisis Nursery workday activity TBD Noon-3PM
  • Wednesday, March 7th
    • Crisis Nursery workday activity TBD 6-9PM

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Committee Updates

DIAM and CAF Grant Update was given by Annie Bruno, and we were happy to hear that JLCU collected 21 Pillows, 22 towels, and 10 washcloths last month for Courage Connection!!!

Laura Gerhold discussed creating partnerships with JLCU requesting that we reach out to organizations that may be interested in partnership opportunities with JLCU. The application for next year is on the website and is due November 30.

Diversity and Inclusion presentation by January Boten and Denise Poindexter really made us think, and challenged us to grow. Their talking points included the following:

  • Think about what it is like for someone else to walk into this room (it isn’t easy for everyone!)
  • Think outside your own experiences (sometimes hard to do!)
  • We will get who we plan for (so let’s make plans to include everyone!)
  • Think ahead (be proactive!)
  • Food is important (makes people feel at home and welcome, so include options that appeal to all diet-types!)
  • Diversity is more than just ethnicity (so much more!)
  • Don’t make assumptions (re-train your brain!)
  • Everyone’s experiences are normal (to them!)

General Business

  • Kids in the Kitchen Re-Proposal by Miranda Smith (3 more years with an increased budget) will be voted on at the November GMM
  • Festival of Trees
  • New membership Transformation Rollout – Jennifer Schmidt and January Boten
    • In-person discussions will be held
      • Tues, Nov 14th 7-7:30 PM at the Hilton Garden Inn prior to the GMM at 7:30.
      • Tuesday, Jan 23rd at 6PM at the Hilton Garden Inn prior to the GMM

September General Members Meeting 2017

Celebrate the 85th year of JLCU

Our First General Members Meeting of the 85th year of JLCU opened with music, refreshments, a group photo, and candy… and that’s just the beginning!

SPOTLIGHT ON TRAINING Cheryl Mitchell shared a valuable lesson with us entitled “the Outside In” about discovering our “why” and strategies for approaching change in the coming League year.

SPOTLIGHT ON COMMUNITY   We received an awesome update about the success of the Match for Courage from Megan Wolf, before learning more about the Crisis Nursery – our project partnership for 2017/2018!

Our DIAM raised over $400 and a huge box of art supplies for the Crisis Nursery – so the year is off to a great start!

CAF Grant applications  were due Oct 1, 2017. The goal of the Community Assistance Fund (CAF) is to respond to the financial needs of nonprofit organizations, specifically for programs and projects related to Junior League of Champaign-Urbana position statements.  These position statements outline the focus of JLCU’s focus areas, including child protection and welfare, families, health, hunger, literacy, shelter, school preparedness, voluntarism, and women.

GENERAL BUSINESS  Festival of Trees update SPOLIER … it is going to be EPIC! Reserve November 17th -19th this year for Daddy Daughter Dance, Breakfast with Santa, and the Festival of Trees Gala to benefit Crisis Nursery sponsored by Clark Lindsey Village. All events will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn.

SPOTLIGHT ON MEMBERSHIP  We welcomed a class of 23 provisional members (and as of press time an additional 4 have joined our 2017-2018 class)! We are excited for them to embark on this new adventure with us!

It was awesome to hear from January Boten and Jen Romine as they shared their experiences producing and acting in “The Vagina Monologues” this summer to benefit the Courage Connection.  Beth Peralta (VP of Communications) updated us on hashtags (#JLCU and #JLCUrepresents) to use on social media as well. We even took selfies of our tables to practice.

We honored many Shining Stars that have worked hard this summer! Congratulations!

 

SPOTLIGHT ON ADVOCACY  We took an opportunity to write to our state senators, representatives, and governor to urge them to  fund the Crisis Nursery as they committed to during prior to the state budget crisis.

Celebrating 85 years of Junior League in the Champaign/Urbana Community!

Thank you to Northwestern Mutual for sponsoring our first meeting at the Hawthorne Suites.

Make sure you mark your calendars for everything going on in the coming year – there is so much to look forward to in 2017-2018!

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