Social Eyes by Faye Reeder

Fort Worth Junior League receives national award

Tiffany Rubenkoenig, Kristy Odom and Paige Pate of Junior League of Fort Worth, with the Communty Impact Award and Ellen Rose, president of Association of Junior Leagues International.
Tiffany Rubenkoenig, Kristy Odom and Paige Pate of Junior League of Fort Worth, with the Communty Impact Award and Ellen Rose, president of Association of Junior Leagues International. Courtesy photo

Kathryn McClendon, recovering from drug addiction and leaving a period of incarceration, has a place to live thanks to the Junior League of Fort Worth and the Opening Doors for Women in Need program.

“Without the blessings of this program, I would not be a productive member of society. Thanks to the Junior League for providing us a safe and beautiful place to live,” McClendon said. “Many women remain in prison when they don’t have a safe place to parole to. I’m working now and attending weekly support groups. I’m going into my fourth month, thanks to Opening Doors for Women in Need and the Junior League.”

Her story will no doubt be repeated many times in future years as women transitioning back into society benefit from the house that the Junior League built in Fort Worth’s Como neighborhood through a partnership with the nonprofit organization.

At the recent worldwide conference in Los Angeles, the project garnered high honors for the Fort Worth Junior League when it was selected from among 233 other chapters to receive the prestigious Community Impact Award from the Association of Junior Leagues International.

“This is the highest honor a Junior League chapter can receive,” spokeswoman Carrie Cappel said.

“I am so proud of our league for being presented with this honor, thanks to the work we have done on the tough issue of re-entry in the Como neighborhood,” league President Paige Pate said.

After learning back in 2012 about the high rate of recidivism in the Como neighborhood, especially among women, the league began a partnership with Opening Doors and decided to contribute volunteer support and money to help break the prison-poverty-crime cycle all too common in this community.

The collaboration between the two organizations now provides services, shelter and opportunities to women who are returning to their neighborhood after serving time in prison.

“The Junior League of Fort Worth’s Opening Doors for Women in Need project is a wonderful example of the kind of community impact our organization has been making in Fort Worth for the past 85 years,” Pate said in a statement. Opening Doors “takes women who truly desire a fresh start and molds and empowers them through coaching, compassion and introduction to the resources necessary to succeed.”

Pate said league members enthusiastically provided volunteer services and funding to renovate a community center and to build a house that will be useful to Opening Doors’ Nehemiah program for many years.

“Working with the Junior League of Fort Worth over the last three years has allowed Opening Doors for Women in Need to accomplish two huge long-term goals: the Nehemiah Project and the house that the Junior League built,” wrote Opening Doors founder and CEO Sandra Stanley.

“It wasn’t just the funding that made the difference; it was also a great opportunity to work with three great presidents, each getting deeply involved with each project. The committee teams, who became our sisters, amazed us with their organizational skills. We built relationships as we accomplished our goals for re-entry,” Stanley added.

The Community Impact Award recognizes Junior League programs that have achieved significant outcomes using collaboration to help underserved local populations. To be eligible to win a program must exhibit long-term measurable results that link skilled work of trained volunteers with community agencies and/or other community partners.

“What the Junior League of Fort Worth has done so effectively is to demonstrate the power of committed volunteers — working closely with community partners — in creating measurable change in their communities. We call this process changing the world, one community at a time,” wrote Ellen Rose, president of the Association of Junior Leagues International.

During the first of two phases of the three-year program, the league funded $40,000 for finishing and rehabilitating a vacant building in Como under the Nehemiah Project while also contributing more than 500 hours of volunteer service.

League volunteers conducted workshops offering job-interview and job-search training along with conducting clothing drives, helping maintain a community garden as well as coordinating cultural outings in and around Fort Worth for Opening Doors clients.

The Junior League house was accomplished in the second phase through $75,000 in funding, 750 volunteer hours and a new partnership with F5 Design Build to construct the house. It was completed in one year and allows Opening Doors to shelter four more women returning from prison each year.

Susanne Avondet, a former league president and a longtime volunteer, wrote, “The JLFW’s partnership with ODWIN in Como offered a hand up, hope and restoration to women and men seeking a positive re-entry outcome in our community.” She praised league members for going above and beyond to achieve success.

“In my opinion, the most meaningful gift to [Opening Doors] and the Como community was the hope offered by the JLFW members through the relationships they made to those they served,” Avondet added.

To learn more about the organization, visit www.juniorleaguefw.org. Direct questions to Kelly Hosley, communications vice president, at kellyhosley@gmail.com or to Pate at pbpate@sbcglobal.net or 817-332-7500.

Harris Hospital Auxiliary celebrates 75 years

Many years ago Barbara Moller would count pennies and nickels at her kitchen table on Saturdays to calculate the revenue earned by the coffee cart that used to roll through the halls of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth to sell refreshments and raise money for the hospital auxiliary.

Congratulations to the auxiliary as it celebrated its 75th anniversary at festivities this spring. And Moller, 88, is still proudly volunteering in the organization.

The group has made a giant step beyond the days of pennies and nickels, though. For example, it recently contributed $1 million to the new Senior Health & Wellness Center at the hospital.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the auxiliary, meeting interesting people and raising money for the hospital,” said Moller, who spent her time volunteering at the hospital information desk for almost 50 years. “It has helped me, too, because through the years things happen that get you down, and this would pick me up.”

Fundraising by the auxiliary since it was founded in 1940 has helped in many construction projects as well as funding scholarships for students aiming to work in the healthcare industry. Last year alone, it provided $3,500 in scholarships to 20 area students. The first project, funded mostly from hosting Silver Tea social events, was to pay for a prayer room for patients’ loved ones and employees. Members continue to raise money through hospital gift shop sales, popcorn machine sales and vendor sales of scrubs, jewelry and apparel.

“For 75 years, our auxiliary has worked selflessly to keep the hopes and dreams alive of our forefathers who had a vision for this hospital,” said Lillie Biggins, president of Texas Health Fort Worth. “Members are part of the core fiber of this facility and have enabled us to carry out our mission: to improve the health of the communities we’re privileged to serve.”

For information on how to join the auxiliary, contact President Esta Austin at EstaAustin@TexasHealth.org or 817-250-3020 on Mondays or Thursdays.

Events at a glance

▪ The 58th annual Jewelry, Gems & Minerals Galore show is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Grapevine Convention Center, 1209 S. Main St. Hosted by the Arlington Gem and Mineral Club, the show offers handmade jewelry, faceted gem and cabochon stones, minerals, sculptures, carvings and crystals as well as books, tools, fossilized plants/animals and decorative yard art. Fun family activities, demonstrations and a chance to have your personal gems identified are planned. Members will be available with information on the club’s classes. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for seniors and children ages 6-12. Learn more at www.agemclub.com.

▪ A Night at the Improv Awards Banquet hosted by the Southlake Chamber of Commerce is at 6 p.m. June 18 at Hilton Town Square. Awards for Citizen, Business, Civic Group and Youth of the Year will be presented. Entertainment by comedian Paul Varghese and the Hunter Sullivan Band is on tap, and Dan Henry from Fox 4 news is emcee. Make reservations by calling the office at 817-481-8200 or online at www.southlakechamber.com.

Please send your SocialEyes news to freeder@star-telegram.com. Keep up with even more community news by liking our page on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SocialEyes.ST. Follow me on Twitter: @FayeReeder

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