In New York City at the turn of the century, there was an enormous social divide between the rich and the poor. Immigrant children living on the streets were suffering from disease and hunger. Mary Harriman, a socially prominent 18 year-old, was moved by the horrific conditions around her. Mobilizing 80 other young women, she founded the Junior League. By 1921, more than 40 Leagues were formed across the country and joined together to establish the Association of Junior Leagues. The League members cared for children, taught classes, and improved sanitation conditions. With each passing year, the Junior League movement grew.
A similar desire to improve the community prompted 13 women to form the Plano Service League in May 1976. Dynamic leaders such as Florence Shapiro, Joan Biggerstaff, Carolyn Dickey, Mary Nell Jackson, Pat Evans, and Jeri Haggard helped the organization establish administrative committees, develop projects, and focus on fundraising events. Their service to the community began with Dental Care for underprivileged children and volunteering at the Swine Flu Clinic. In 1980, the League voted to pursue membership into the Association of Junior Leagues (AJL), which later became the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI). In February 1984, the Plano Service League became the Junior League of Plano (JLP), the 255th League in AJLI.
Many outstanding projects have been researched, developed, and implemented throughout the Junior League of Plano’s 33 years of service. Through various community projects, the League has been instrumental in bringing dynamic and national leaders to speak to our community. Ross Perot addressed the issue of substance abuse in 1980. The League provided a feasibility study for a juvenile justice center and was honored that Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, dedicated the center in 1983. Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, noted Texas author, dedicated the Sesquicentennial Park Plaza in Downtown Plano in 1985. Congressman Dick Armey was a featured speaker for a citywide drug rally in 1986. And in 2002 and in 2005, Anita Perry, the First Lady of Texas, addressed the community and League members about family violence.
The Junior League of Plano sponsored the first Project Graduation in 1982. We also established and funded the Volunteer Center of Collin County in 1983. In 1992, the League contributed over $50,000 for research and start-up costs for the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Collin County Council of Family Violence and the Sci-Tech Discovery Center were initiatives of the League begun in 1999 and 2001, respectively. Other projects over the years have included “Hip, Hip for Gray” Senior Citizens Craft Fair, CPR classes, Drug Puppet Show, Plano War on Drugs, Vision Screening, Project LEAD, WHO, Teen Adventure Program, Heard Natural Science Museum, and many others.
Early fundraisers such as the Heritage Farmstead Luncheons and Plano’s first Gala, “A Touch of Country”, raised much-needed funds for the organization. The Plano Golf Classic contributed funds for three years, as well. Our popular golf tournament is now an annual fundraiser in the Spring. In 1989, the annual “Trinkets to Treasures” Rummage Sale was introduced, and continues to be very successful. In 1996, the League launched their first holiday gift market, “‘Neath the Wreath”. The American Girl Fashion Show is combined with the gift market for a fantastic holiday venture. Lone Star to Five Star, an award-winning cookbook, was written and published by the League in 2003.
Since its inception, the JLP has raised more than $2.5 million for our community through fundraising efforts. These funds have been used for more than 50 projects that serve the citizens across North Texas. Approximately 900 women in the League have contributed more than 285,000 volunteer hours to their community of Collin County.
Our members are dedicated to bettering life in Collin County by promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving our community through the effective action and leadership of our trained volunteers.