Leaders reflect on century of service, increasingly diverse future
As Junior League of Dallas celebrates its Centennial, president Christa Brown-Sanford and former president Karen Shuford anticipate changes even as JLD stays focused on its central mission.
“At Junior League, we train future women leaders in Dallas, period,” Brown-Sanford said. “I think when you just look at that, there is an impact on the community that is so important because of the work that we’re doing with women.”
Established in 1922, the Junior League of Dallas started with 40 members determined to make a difference in their community and has grown to almost 5,000 members today.
One of the largest and oldest Junior Leagues, the organization dedicates itself to improving the Dallas community, providing over 130,000 service hours and about $1 million in funding each year.
Brown-Sanford has been an active member with JLD for 14 years, balancing service on multiple committees like the research and development team with her career as an attorney.
“Every year as I’m volunteering, I think, ‘Oh, this is my favorite one,’” said Brown-Sanford. “I think I have learned something about myself, how I work with others, and how I lead that has helped me to create this skillset that is so important in every other aspect of my life.”
In celebration of 100 years of service dedicated to the Dallas community, JLD exhibited historical documents, memorabilia, and photos at the Hall of State during the State Fair of Texas and is rehabilitating the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House as a Centennial Project. JLD has raised about $1.4 million for the project so far.
“Having been a member for 46 years, I’ve seen over and over again that when a community need or an issue arises, the Junior League members step up to the plate,” Shuford said.
When abused children had to retell their story to authorities, Junior League women stepped forward and established the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Shuford said.
Brown-Sanford said members helped fundraise money in the 1970s to create the Dallas Museum of Art with the city and later the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
Looking towards the future, both Brown-Sanford and Shuford hope to increase diversity within the organization.
“In 100 years, I think that the league will continue to grow to be more reflective of the community that we serve and really expand upon our diversity of membership from a racial and ethnic standpoint, from a geographic standpoint, and from a socio-economic standpoint,” Brown-Sanford said.
Shuford hopes future members visit the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and become inspired by the “remarkable lady who [believed] that people from all backgrounds can come together and make a difference.
She said, “[We want] to ensure that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income, are treated with dignity and equality, and have access to things like healthcare, housing, employment, and safety.”