HistoryThe Junior League of Wilmington was organized in 1918 under the inspiration of Mrs. William S. Bergland and incorporated in 1923. Since its inception, the League has donated uncountable hours, materials, and donations to many wonderful community programs (see complete list).
As the League has grown, its needs have changed. To accommodate these changes, the League has continued to modify its organizational structure in order to operate efficiently.
Please enjoy the short videos below about the History of the Junior League of Wilmington:
|First 25 Years||Second 25 Years||Third 25 Years|
The following list of Milestones describes many of our changes over our 90+ years in operation.
- Our newsletter, The Lantern, was started in 1927.
- A Publicity Chair was first appointed in 1934.
- In 1937, a Chair of Education was appointed to supervise the Provisional Training Course and bring to the League's attention educational opportunities within the community.
- In 1960, a Community Service Committee was organized.
- A Transfer Chair was given Board Status in 1961, as transfers into the League became more numerous.
- In 1980-1981 the Advisory Planning Committee and a new ad hoc committee, Future Planning, studied the administration and future needs of the League, and its proposal was accepted by the General Membership in November 1981.
- In 1983-84, the JLW not only celebrated its 65th anniversary, it also revised its executive structure. The League is now directed by an Executive Board made up of the officers (President, President-Elect, Treasurer, and Secretary) and Vice Presidents..
- In 1985-1986, the Project Development Task Force was appointed to examine how to structure Community project research and to chart a future direction for new project initiatives. As a result of work done by the Task Force, and the Community Programs Council, a tentative schedule for phasing out several self-sustaining League Approved Community Placements (LACP's) was set out. Project Development continues to identify needs within the community which the League can successfully address. As our 75th Anniversary project (1993-94) we designed, funded and constructed "Bridges For Play," a playground for children of all abilities located at the Leach School in the Colonial School District.
- The Membership Council worked toward goals in membership diversification and satisfaction. In moving toward these goals we adopted Sustaining Emeritus and Active with Honor status during the 1993-1994 year.
- Administratively, the League attempts to simplify its procedures through the use of computer technology. Bookkeeping and membership records functions are only two areas continually updated to keep pace with the changing needs of the League.
- The 1987-1988 70th Anniversary celebration in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel duPont featured a JLW slide show, the Scarlet Ribbons, AJL Executive Director Deborah Seidel, Governor Castle, and Dale Wolf. Our 75th Anniversary was celebrated with a black tie gala at the Grand Ballroom, our first feature video, "The Junior League of Wilmington-75 Years of Community Service," and with our first signature project "Bridges for Play," a playground for physically and mentally challenged children.
- In 1993 we introduced our first cookbook, Savor the Brandywine Valley: A Collection of Recipes, which was marketed within the League as well as externally in the community.
- The Wellness Community Delaware, Inc. became the JLW's second focus area project in 1995. Wellness provides counseling and services to help people with cancer (and their families) fight for recovery. The JLW pledged $30,000 to the Wellness Community payable over a three-year period. In addition to the much needed financial assistance provided the JLW, our League committee developed a Physician's Outreach Program, a six panel marketing display and other presentation materials. The Provisional Class of 1997 worked very hard at developing a library for the Wellness Community.
- During the 1996-1997 League year we introduced a new fundraiser. The American Girls Fashion Show and Tea. Also during this year we turned over the Ronald McDonald Raffle in connection with the LPGA golf tournament to the Ronald McDonald House. During this ten-year project the JLW raised over $500,000 for the local Ronald McDonald House. We continued our relationship with them via The Golf Ball, a collaborative fundraising event.
- 1998 marked the 80th year of the Junior League of Wilmington. To commemorate the milestone, JLW pins were purchased, through underwriting, to be presented to every Sustainer and Active in the League throughout our Anniversary year. The League began its year-long celebration by honoring the oldest members of the League, the women who have achieved Sustainer Emeritus status. Each month in the Lantern, the JLW honored members from different eras. All Active members were recognized at the November General Meeting. At each corresponding General Meeting, the accomplishments of the honored eras were highlighted so that the entire League could celebrate our accomplishments and impact on the community over the past 80 years. An 80th Anniversary Party was held in December. All members, Sustainers, Actives and Provisionals, were able to come together to celebrate the past and energize the League for the future.
- During the 1999-2000 year, with our new focus area "Building and Preserving Families," we chose a new signature project and partnership with DAPI (Delaware Adolescent Program Inc.). The Junior League of Wilmington was one of the founding members of this organization in 1969. The project included starting a Pantry and a mentoring program.
- 2000 saw continued effort with DAPI, our signature project. The Done-in-a-Day Committee was rolled into the newly-created Community Action Committee in an effort to better focus JLW resources. And, JLW launched the creation of a new cookbook titled "Dancing on the Table," a multi-year endeavor that involved collecting recipes, testing, tasting, and editing. The Provisional Class of 2000 redecorated the playroom at the Ronald McDonald House and supplied toys.
- In 2001, the JLW was working on a combined process of Strategic Planning/Project Development that would establish our direction for the future. This plan will enable the JLW to determine how we can achieve maximum community impact as well as membership satisfaction. Membership chose Literacy as our Focus Area. We published our second cookbook, Dancing on the Table. It was named “The Official Cookbook of the State of Delaware” and was available at many stores throughout the state, as well as in Chester County, PA.
- Highlights of the 2002-03 year included the adoption of three community projects: Social Venture Partners, Delaware; Delaware Coalition for Literacy; and the Woodlawn Library.
- In 2003-04 the first annual Heart of the Home® Kitchen Tour became a new fundraiser for the League. A task force was established to examine the condition and utilization of Headquarters.
- The 2004-05 year marked the success of the League's three-year partnerships with Social Venture Partners Delaware, the Woodlawn Library, and the Delaware Coalition for Literacy with $28,204 and over 13,506 books donated to area literacy programs. The League also developed the Teachers' Supply Closet, which provided area educators with a monthly opportunity to purchase school supplies and books at discounted prices. We also introduced two new mini fundraisers. The Wilmington Country Store and Ellie One Day Sale were held in the Fall. The Stencil Shoppe and Book Fair Holiday Sale was held in early December. Both were met positively by the community and were successful.
- In 2005-06, the League completed its commitment to the Woodlawn Library by donating a total of $40,000 to the construction efforts and by participating in various fundraising initiatives. In May, a year of project development culminated in members choosing the East Side Charter School Library as the League's signature project for the coming year. In addition, the League also voted to move forward with a capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation of our headquarters, the Lea-Derickson House at 1801 N. Market Street. And finally, the Whale of a Sale celebrated its 25th anniversary!
The 2006-07 League year began with the commencement of the Cornerstone Campaign. On September 12, 2006, the deed amendment between the Junior League and Old Brandywine Village, Inc. was signed, thus transferring complete ownership of the house to the League. As part of its Signature Project commitment, the Junior League donated $12,000 to the East Side Charter School for an Accelerated Reading Program.
The year 2007-08 brought some exciting times for the League. The first ever Capital Campaign reached its fundraising goal of $750,000 in record time, allowing us to begin renovations to League headquarters. Enthusiasm generated by the Capital Campaign helped pave the way for a 90th Anniversary celebration, with year-long activities including historic articles chronicling each decade.
The 2009-10 year began with the headquarters renovations being successfully completed and the start of an exciting project to organize and preserve the Junior League of Wilmington archives. The League entered into an agreement with the University of Delaware to transfer our archives collection to the college upon completion of the cataloging process to be permanently housed in the college’s Delaware archives collection. As part of our new focus area Life Skills and Mentoring for Children and Teens, League members enthusiastically participated in our Signature Project with the West End Neighborhood House Lifelines Program. During the year, League members beautifully renovated and landscaped two homes that house teens transitioning out of the foster care system, making these dwellings feel warm and inviting for their residents. In addition, League members successfully conducted monthly seminars to teach these teens important life skills such as budgeting and staying healthy. Another important achievement in the Community Programs area was the revival of League-sponsored Community Advisory breakfasts, bringing together leaders from local non-profits to discuss and collaboration on the community’s most urgent needs.
The 2010-11 League year saw the conclusion of numerous multi-year initiatives. League members renovated two additional resident houses and landscaped five backyards for the Lifelines Program of West End Neighborhood House. In this last year of our three-year commitment we also facilitated 12 life skills and two self-defense workshops. The League was selected for Cancer Support Community Delaware's 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. This honor was in recognition of the League’s commitment to cancer care in Delaware, which dates back to the mid-1980s.
The 2013-14 League year marked the 10th anniversary of the Heart of the Home® Kitchen Tour. The popular fundraiser marked this milestone in style with a guest bartender event for a preview party and a restaurant night for added revenue. Membership reaffirmed its commitment to children’s health and wellness as a focus area for another three years, and the Community Programs Council researched new nonprofit partners. Additional point opportunities were created to allow even more flexibility for membership. A smaller board of directors with board liaisons connecting committees to the board debuted. The extensive governing document revisions to provide more clarity that were started in the prior League year were presented and approved by membership. The League's financial security was strengthened through additional investments in its fund at the Delaware Community Foundation.
- The Junior League of Wilmington took the Kids in the Kitchen series to area elementary schools and community centers. The goal was to encourage children to maintain a healthy weight by making good food choices and exercising. This was accomplished through hands-on cooking demonstrations and activities. The Kids in the Kitchen program also educated children on the importance of good oral health, sugar awareness, personal hygiene, and the Nemours 5-2-1-Almost None program which highlighted the importance of increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, increasing exercise, and reducing “screen time.” In addition, the Junior League of Wilmington had an adult program that covered all the above topics to help raise parents’ and caregivers’ awareness about fast food while giving tips and ideas for healthy, low-cost, easy meals.
Partnerships were established with Delaware Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Delaware Greenways, Healthy Food for Healthy Kids, Girls on the Run, Wilmington PAL, Ministry of Caring, and the Anna P. Mote Elementary School.
From 2008 until 2011 the Junior League of Wilmington worked closely with the Life Lines Program at the West End Neighborhood House, a not-for-profit agency in Wilmington dedicated to helping children who are aging out of the foster care system. The Junior League of Wilmington dedicated more than $90,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer time to the following programs:
• Supplied the Life Lines program’s education training center with new computers, printers and routers for use in creating resumes, applying for jobs and completing school work
• Facilitated monthly Lifeskills training workshops. Topics including: conflict resolution, financial literacy, self defense and personal hygiene
• Renovated five WENH transitional homes for emancipated foster care youths. The improved residences establish safe, welcoming home environments that encourage responsible independent living
• Landscaped and maintained five WENH transitional homes to provide a safe social environment