75th Anniversary

10 Sep 75th Anniversary

With running shoes, shorts, a light-blue T-shirt and her hair pulled back in a ponytail, Amy Hull is ready to get down to business.

After two weeks spent organizing, collecting, sorting and hefting boxes, the doors to the 21st annual School Supply Train were ready to open, with throngs of people lining the sidewalks around First Baptist Church ROC waiting to get in for free school supplies.

As this year’s president of the Junior League of Longview, Inc., Hull is the conductor of the School Supply Train, one of the flagship projects of the Junior League of Longview, as well as its other projects, 77 active members, 61 provisional members (new to the League) and 411 sustainers (former active members who still participate).

If Hull is the conductor of the School Supply Train, Longview resident Kelsey Runge is the engineer, or the chairwoman of the event.

With a collective 12 years in the League between the two women, they know how to get things done, including providing 3,200 area students with a free backpack and school supplies.

Getting things done is the hallmark of the Junior League of Longview.

Once known for white gloved lunches, pearls and heels, the Junior League of Longview is a formidable force to be reckoned with, celebrating its 75th anniversary in Longview this year.

Members include attorneys, doctors, teachers, engineers, stay-at-home-moms, bankers, accountants and an archeologist, to name a few.

“We certainly don’t all fit into one mold, but we’re all here for the same purpose: to learn and grow,” Hull said.

Grow they have.

“Our numbers have really increased this year,” Hull said. “We’re in a very positive place, and everyone is very motivated and excited.”

By the numbers

A woman can join the Junior League of Longview at age 21. There is a 10 year commitment and members are asked to volunteer at least 40 hours during the year, with most giving double — or triple — that amount.

Over the last 74 years, the Junior League of Longview, Inc., has given more than $3.3 million to the Longview area through their projects and by supporting agencies and organizations.

They are set to give $110,000 during the 2014-15 League year, which runs from June 1 to May 31.

Last year, the Junior League of Longview gave $66,000 through projects and $21,000 in scholarships to 26 area recipients.

“We are simply a group of caring, devoted and hard working women that come from all walks of life for one purpose: to give big,” Hull said. “We give big of our hearts, minds and resources. We are a group of women that are not satisfied with the status quo and continually seek ways to improve the lives of others and our community.”

Projects and passion

The mission of the Junior League is simple: to promote volunteerism, develop the potential of women and improve the community through effective action and leadership.

In addition to the School Supply Train, the Junior League’s community projects include Kids in the Kitchen, which provides nutritional education; Read as One, a new program which promotes literacy; Done in a Day, where volunteers serve local organizations such as Longview Habitat for Humanity and Helping Hands, where League members serve in community outreach programs such as Newgate Mission or Hiway 80 Rescue Mission.

They raise money in two ways: through the Bargain Box resale shop and from Monster Dash, a fall 5k and 10k run and family event.

A fundraising drive each year also solicits funds from area donors.

“Every year the support is overwhelming,” Hull said.

The Junior League of Longview also gives funding to area nonprofit organizations such as the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, ArtsView Children’s Theatre, Longview World of Wonders and Community Connections and city projects such as the splash pad and the library.

Every nonprofit group who receives money also receives volunteer hours from the League.

Developing leaders

It’s almost impossible to walk into a boardroom in Longview and not find a Junior League member serving, Hull said.

“The Junior League develops your leadership potential,” she said. “We are very well trained, and we leave here fearless not afraid to take on anything.”

League members coordinate events like School Supply Train, serve on committees, and step up to learn a variety of skills and tasks. Hull, whose background is in English, served as the treasurer of the League one year, expanding her skill set.

Runge, who taught school, found chairing the School Supply Train to be near and dear to her heart.

“You come here to serve the world, but while you’re here you learn to save the world,” Hull said.

Philanthropically focused, the Junior League is all about giving back to the community with a servant’s heart, all the while developing the potential in their members.

“Whatever your skill set, we’ll plug you in,” Hull said.

Giving back

Katy Prince, Jennifer Fyffe and Paige Gumm donned light blue T-shirts identical to Hull’s on Friday, giving their time to the School Supply Train in the early morning hours.

It was the trio’s first time to work with the School Supply Train, and they were bright-eyed as students and parents started to file in to the gym at First Baptist Church ROC.

With three different backgrounds, the three women still had similar reasons for joining the League.

“To give back to the community,” Gumm said.

“To work alongside great women,” offered Fyffe.

“To stay involved in our area,” Prince said.

Runge joined the League four years ago when she was new to Longview.

“I was new in town, I always loved volunteering,” she said. “It’s not only a place to find friendship, but it’s a place to give back.”

Runge didn’t know a soul when she came to town, but now considers other League members among her best friends.

After growing up with a mother who took her to homeless shelters to volunteer, Runge hopes to instill the same spirit in her daughter.

“Volunteerism in your community is imperative,” she said. “It’s a reminder of how blessed you are in your own life and models this vital element for our children.”

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