JLS History

A Brief History of The League

Officially, the Junior League started in New York in 1901. It’s a rich and interesting story, if you’d like to check it out.

Still want to know more?…

A Longer History of What We’ve Done Together in Sacramento

Our Story

The Junior League of Sacramento came into existence through the efforts of a group of women working together to better the community in which they lived. Founded in 1942, the JLS is an outgrowth of the former Charity League whose work was primarily directed towards young girls. As the Charity League, the organization proved itself to the community by taking part in raising funds for the Fairhaven Home for Unwed Mothers and for a children’s ward at the Sacramento County Hospital. In 1938, the Charity League created the Sacramento Community Welfare Council and later, a volunteer bureau sponsored by the council.

Since its evolution from the Charity League, the community areas of concentration for the JLS have grown to include health, education, welfare, youth services, civic and cultural activities and appropriate political advocacy necessary to accomplish its goals. Some of the many projects and activities the league has been involved with during its 65-year history indicate the depth of commitment the JLS has demonstrated to the Sacramento community.


Leading projects of the 1940s include the creation of the Sacramento Children’s Receiving Home and the start of Children’s Theater as well as significant contributions to the war effort.


The league responded to immediate community needs with contributions to the 1955 Yuba City flood victims. It also recognized the long-term benefits of providing enrichment for children by originating the Junior Museum and Fairytale Town.


The 1960s proved to be a decade for the arts for the Junior League. A film was made for the Crocker Art Gallery, and the Crocker Art Gallery docent program was created. The league also established the Sacramento Regional Arts Council during this time, and a long-time involvement with the rebuilding and historical preservation and portrayal of Old Sacramento was started.


Historical preservation and the arts continued to be focal points for the league in the 1970s. The major area of concentration shifted, however, to the health and welfare of our community. The league originated the Child Abuse Council of Sacramento, the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic and the Sacramento Valley Eye Bank during this time.


The beginning of the 1980s was highlighted by the Junior League’s 40th anniversary gift to Fairytale Town. The Robin Hood Center at Fairytale Town was built as a result of our donation in 1982. Also, the Junior League realized a new direction in community projects in the 1980s with the establishment of the Sacramento Regional Foundation (SRF). The league recognized the enormous potential benefit to the community a public foundation would have in attracting funds from all over the community to be distributed back to various projects. The creation of the SRF, in addition to the community benefits, was reflective of the philosophy of coalition building with other community groups to establish broader commitments to projects, which improve the quality of life in Sacramento.
In 1989, we were fortunate recipients of the Nordstrom store-opening gala. This wonderful, memorable event netted $229,684 for our community.


In the last decade of the century the Junior League continues its legacy of service to the community with the opening of the Crisis Nursery, an extraordinary resource for the youngest and most at-risk children of the community. The Crisis Nursery was a collaborative effort between the Junior League, the Child Abuse Prevention Council, and the Sacramento Children’s Home which got its fundraising start with the $50,000 lead gift from the Junior League. Another Junior League effort, CASA, or court appointed special advocate project, has taken hold in Sacramento, offering children in great need a friend and advocate for their well being during difficult family court proceedings. As the decade and the century are nearing a close, the Junior League of Sacramento has focused its energy and efforts. Following the lead of AJLI, the Junior League did an organizational self-assessment, and then a community forum to determine the issues of greatest concern. It was clear from the forum that the challenges faced by the youth of the community, and the resultant negative behaviors of gangs, violence, teen pregnancy and drugs were of paramount concern. The Junior League developed a vision statement of “Enhancing the well-being of children through the dedicated action of volunteers” and voted to focus its efforts on the self-esteem building and mentoring of children. Since that time Community Funds grants have targeted agencies that assist youth in those areas. Junior League projects, such as START and SMART Kids work to enhance the self esteem of children by providing a safe and enriched after school experience and through literacy tutoring.

In 1991 we published our cookbook “Celebrate!” After four years of work, it finally became a reality, which will reap benefits for future community endeavors. Finally, as clearly demonstrated on the local level, Sacramento Junior League members have also shown a commitment to and a talent for league service on the national level. Seven members of our league have achieved Area administrative positions with the Association of Junior Leagues.

In 1996-97, the league voted to create the Focus Fund, allowing for a gift of up to $10,000 to a local agency or program doing work in the league’s focus area. This annual disbursement of funds from the Community Fund for Women and Children was voted in for a period of four years. The concept of the Focus Fund gift was to allow the committees of the Community Council to research and recommend a recipient(s) in a pro-active manner in order to help as many children as possible. In 1997-98 the JLS voted to award this initial gift to the Greater Sacramento Mentoring Coalition. The purpose of this newly formed collaboration of youth-serving mentor programs is to increase local awareness, support and participation in mentoring at-risk youth in the region. The Junior League was a founding member of this entity along with Communities in Schools, the Big Brothers-Big Sisters Program, People Reaching Out, 100 Black Men of Sacramento, AARP, the Urban League and the Volunteer Center. In 1999 the membership voted to again support a project it helped to establish—The Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento. The Focus Fund Grant of $10,000 assisted the receiving home with its capital campaign to add 30 new beds to the already over-crowded facility.


In 2000, the membership voted to extend its $10,000 grant to the Child Abuse Prevention Council’s Family Cooperative project that will focus on the needs of the youngest members of our area’s families, children age 0-5. The Sacramento League was honored to receive the AJLI/BMW Community Impact Merit Award for its work in establishing the Sacramento Crisis Nursery. Public advocacy for issues of concern to Junior Leagues became a necessary and challenging part of everyday league life. Because of its location in the state’s capital, the JLS was an integral part of the establishment of the State Public Affairs Committee. The California SPAC became a model for other states’ SPACs. It continues to maintain a leadership position and hosts a statewide legislative conference each spring.

The JLS’s fundraising efforts have grown throughout the years along with its impact on community projects. Luncheons and fashion shows, follies, speakers’ series and various other individual events have been held to raise money. By far the most successful and the one event most associated in the community mind with the JLS is the Annual Rummage Sale. From its beginnings in 1950, a year during which a net $7,100 was raised, to the high of $57,493, was realized, the Rummage Sale has been the major source of providing the means for the league to accomplish its goals and is perhaps the one thread which links nearly every member, past and present, of the Sacramento Junior League to one another.

The JLS has a proven history of commitment and support for its community. It has shown a creative ability to adapt to the changing times and needs of the Sacramento area and its own members. With the resources available, the JLS is ready to meet the challenges of the community and its membership with the same dedication and success that has characterized its history in this century.

In the 2004 – 2005 League Year the JLS focused on the needs of children, the League funded new and continuing projects. Appreciating that early development is critical, creative projects involving the whole family have been added to the existing programs of the Children’s Receiving Home and Crisis Nursery. Addressing the needs of youths leaving the foster care system without support, the League has funded programs to help transition them to productive lives. Some of these programs include: Family Support Collaborative – a partnership with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento to support neighborhood resource centers, Impact Sacramento – monthly “done-in-a-day” projects with immediate positive community impact, Children’s Theater – live theatre experience for grade school children (recommended for grades K-2nd – admission is free!), Life Skills Workshops – in partnership with the innovative LaVerne Adolfo Transitional Housing Program, the JLS develops and offers basic life-skills training modules for young adults transitioning from foster care, Making Memories – working with the Sacramento Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Sacramento County Child Protective Services, the JLS seeks to broaden the private financial support of foster youth in our community as well as raise public awareness of the needs of foster youth and families and The Place – in partnership with Sacramento Food Bank Services, the JLS participates in monthly arts and educational projects with children in day-care or after-school programs.

Grants totaling over $16,000 were awarded to the following: Birth & Beyond for their Summer Stars ($2,400), Children’s Receiving Home – Page Turners ($2,000), Early Childhood Counseling Center for their Playful Parenting Classes ($1,120), Families First, Yolo Crisis Nursery for Care packages and educational materials ($2,000), Girl Scouts of Tierra del Oro – providing girls in non-traditional settings the opportunity to participate in the Girl Scouts ($625), Linkage to Education – providing textbooks and school materials for youths entering college ($2,000), Maryhouse/Loaves & Fishes – providing funds for the Children’s Safety Project – ($2,400), River Oaks Center for Children – funding for a laptop computer, WEAVE – funding for the Safe Families class ($1,605) and WIND Youth Center – art supplies for weekly projects ($2,000.00).

Fundraising efforts have been expanded and streamlined. Now in the seventh year, Wine & Dine til Nine continues to be a big success at Pavilions Shopping Center each September, featuring local food and wine and a silent auction. The Designer’s Showcase House has been a major effort and success for the last five years, showcasing several beautiful homes and the talents of local designers. Planned for early 2006, a Crab Feed is under development as a new fundraiser. Continuing drives for much needed supplies, and community projects take place throughout the year, helping numerous charities supporting women and children in need.

The Sustainer’s focus in 2004-2005 was on the senior citizen community. In 2005 they successfully voted to donate a $10,000 grant to the Senior Safe House Project, an emergency residential facility for senior citizens who have been victims of abuse. It is estimated that 30% of the abused elderly are women.

In 2005-2006 we saw many successes in our League. St. John’s Shelter was elevated committee status, we added new fundraisers which included the very successful Family Fun Fest at Fairytale Town, we provided more training opportunities at varying times, and we voted in a new very important signature project, The Sacramento Children’s Museum. We have committed to them that we would build and display the museum’s first exhibit, and we hope to be a part of the Grand Opening as well. The Annual Fund drive was the most successful we have seen in years, with over $13,000 coming in to our League and its projects. The membership approved a new website and database to be designed for our League.

To view a list of agencies originated/assisted by the JLS, please click here.